Shine Yoga and Brunch Day

Gemma Easterbrook is a 38 year-old wife and mother to two small children, and has been living with a rare brain tumour since 2018. In this post she writes about the September Shine yoga and brunch retreat in Cambridge, which seemed the perfect way for her to mark the end of 12 months of treatment.

Bright sunshine, a cloudless blue sky and a warm breeze set the perfect scene for the Norwich and Cambridge Shine networks to link up for a yoga and brunch day on Saturday 22 September. Nothing could spoil this idyllic day, not even charmless taxi drivers and road closures as far as the eye could see!


Guest blogger Gemma and her husband

Twelve East Anglian network members all joined together for a no-experience-necessary day in the company of Tatum, Shine’s very own yoga teacher. Tatum inspired us all to practise our yoga  outside under the shade of a beautiful tree in the grounds of the hotel, much to the surprise of the hotel staff.

Members of the group had a mixture of abilities, from first timers to longstanding yoga fans, and we all wore a smile as we were treated to a restorative and awakening yoga session in the open air. Joined by an inquisitive Labrador and bemused dog-walkers who looked on enviously, we used the gentle postures and breathed carefully to awaken and stimulate our tired bones. The poses  were easily adapted to suit everyone, irrespective of how their bodies and minds were feeling that day.

We all took part in a mindful moment: we were offered a small sweet treat by Tatum and encouraged to eat it slowly and thoughtfully, and to really allow ourselves to experience the textures, tastes, sounds and sensations as we enjoyed it. It was very grounding and a great thing to try at home.

Being closer to nature was very healing and during Savasana, the relaxation part at the end of practice, we lay on our mats and stared up at the blue sky and watched dragonflies darting above us. It was a moment of quiet peace for us all.DSC_0404

We had all worked up an appetite and trooped inside to be greeted by hot drinks and a delicious made-to-order brunch, including smoked salmon, eggs and avocados. Extra toast arrived, piled high on plates, and we all dived in, with the Norwich members grabbing a bit extra to go as it was time to head back to the train.

And what did the other attendees think of the day?

Sophie from the Cambridge network said: “This was my first Shine event. Meeting all the other friendly ‘Shinies’ in an informal, comfortable setting helped with my feelings of isolation that I have had since my diagnosis.”

Corinne, leader of the Norwich Shine Network, added “What a lovely day! Since my treatment, there haven’t been many times that my body has felt good but Tatum’s approach to yoga is so gentle and revitalising it was just the treat my body needed!

“The day was a great opportunity to meet Hannah and some of the Cambridge members. A lot of our Norwich members travel to Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge for treatment so it was good to link the networks up with each other.”

My best memory was at the end of the session, which included a balance pose that had us all giggling, followed by a supportive group balance where we stood alongside each other and felt unified and supported to balance and breathe. It was an apt end that highlighted just what Shine is all about.

Being at a Shine event means that you never have to explain if you’re feeling tired or below par, or if you’re feeling quiet or not yourself. It means not making excuses when you’re running late because you couldn’t think straight, or if you forget someone’s name. Being amongst Shine people allows you to breathe and feel at ease because you know the person alongside you understands what it is like to be on the same strange and unwanted journey that is having cancer.

Great Escape: reunited!

2018 Escapee Caroline shares her experience of our Great Escape Reunion, a one-off event celebrating five years of weekend retreats for young people with cancer.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 2018 Shine Great Escape (read my fellow Escapee Rosie’s blog about it here), and I was invited to the Great Escape Reunion almost as soon as I had accepted my place on the Escape itself!

It turns out that 2018 was a year worthy of celebration: the Great Escape that I attended was the fifth weekend away for young adults with cancer that Ceinwen Giles and Emma Willis had organised since Shine began. In March, Shine organised a reunion event in London, inviting all of those who had attended a Great Escape to come along and celebrate the anniversary with them.


Some of the 2018 Great Escape attendees reunited!

The afternoon began with tea, cake, and conversation, which gave us time to chat with our fellow Escapees and meet those who had attended in previous years. While it was a great opportunity for many to catch up, for the 2018 attendees it was also a chance to get to know each other better. Although we all feel a strong bond with our ‘tribe’ as a result of the Escape, there are still so many things that we want to learn!

Once we’d warmed up and helped ourselves to a piece of flapjack or four, the Reunion continued in true Escape style – with Sharpies, crafts, and collages. Although some Escapees remain defiantly unartistic, everyone took part in creating collages to show how the experience had affected their lives. It was amazing to see how much one weekend away could change our perceptions about cancer and our attitudes towards living with the disease.

After the activities came a potted history of the Shine and the Escape from Ceinwen and Emma, including stories about how they’d manage to convince friends and friends of friends to sign up to voluntarily spend a weekend at a hotel in Bournemouth with a group of young people with cancer – hardly the most glamorous of mini-break ideas! We are all overwhelming grateful that they pulled it off, as the next portion of the afternoon showed. Representatives from each Great Escape gave short presentations about their experiences and gave us an insight into what everyone had been doing since their Escape. This part of the afternoon was emotional for many reasons. It was fantastic to see photos of weddings, exciting trips abroad, and new babies, which gave us optimism for our futures beyond cancer. However, the moving tributes to those who have sadly passed away since attending their Escape reminded us all about what it is that brings us together. After the presentations, we raised a glass not only to Ceinwen, Emma, and the volunteers, but also to the wonderful Escapees who are no longer with us.

And as for the 2018 Escapees? Although we weren’t convinced that we would have much to report after only a few weeks apart, we had managed to achieve a surprising amount: a few new jobs, several dates, a couple of people returning to work, and some meet-ups already in the calendar for later in the year. And then, of course, the few thousand (!) WhatsApp messages we had exchanged with each other since leaving Bournemouth. It seems that a Shine Great Escape isn’t a Shine Great Escape without a very active WhatsApp or Facebook group!

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Fond memories of the Escape…

The reunion came to a close with a group discussion about the future of Shine, and how we could ensure that more young people are able to benefit from everything the charity has to offer, then a delicious buffet.


I’ll leave you with a few comments about the day from my fellow 2018 Escapees. Thank you again for everything Shine, and all the volunteers who have contributed to the Great Escape!

‘It was great to chat to previous attendees and see that they are still benefiting from the Escape and have gone on to make good progress. Also, it was nice to see that they are still good friends with each other years later. The Escape has a long-lasting impact and doesn’t just fizzle out after leaving the bubble of The Grove.’

‘I get really tearful thinking about our Escape and the Reunion. I feel like I belong with you guys, where I don’t belong anywhere else.’

‘[Our group photo from the Reunion is] my work screensaver!! I look really happy, which makes me smile, and when I have a tough day it reminds me that we’re in this together.’

What is a ‘Great Escape’? To learn more about the Shine Great Escape and how you could apply to take part, check out our website here

Life – but not as you knew it: The importance of a cancer crew!

At Shine, we’ve always believed that there is a lot to be gained from being around others who just get what life with cancer is like.  We now run 11 networks across the UK which have men and women who have experienced a cancer diagnosis meeting up for coffee, drinks, dinner and occasionally some (very bad) bowling.  Once you’re diagnosed with cancer, many people feel like they’ve lost something; in our latest blog, Ellie Philipotts explores both the losses and gains that come with cancer and tells us why she thinks a cancer support network is so important.

Ellie Philpotts.

Our latest blogger – Ellie


Cancer, cancer, cancer. If you’re reading this, you can probably say you’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt – but lost a number of other things in the process: hair, body parts, confidence, friends….

Going through all of this is almost second-nature to us Shiny people, but not to the average Joe, (which can seem like another term for ‘every person in the world but me’.)

I think there’s an irony in the fact that cancer itself is formed of millions of little cells going haywire, leading to what feels like millions of medical procedures to solve the problem and yet it’s one of the most isolating things a person can go through.  Despite the amount of people who’ve also had this diagnosis, when your own journey begins, it definitely doesn’t feel like millions of others know how you feel, either mentally or physically. What I’ve discovered though is that probably the biggest cancer perk (yes, they exist!) can be found in a new, post-cancer support system.

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2011 when I was 15. Less than two months later, I went on my first ‘cancer trip’, to London with Teenage Cancer Trust. We completed a music workshop backstage at the Royal Albert Hall; met Roger Daltrey and saw The Who perform in aid of the charity. The next day was full of exploring Camden and realising how lucky I was to have been given such a great break from chemo and steroids.

From then on, during the rest of treatment and beyond, I’ve been heavily involved with Teenage Cancer Trust. My Birmingham Children’s Hospital group went on social events like meals every month and trips to London; sailing with the Ellen MacArthur Trust, two incredible Find Your Sense of Tumours; Look Good Feel Better days on the ward; Clothes Show Live tours…the list goes on!

In September 2014, I moved away from home to study English Literature and Journalism at Cardiff University. Obviously this was a big change – leaving the life I’d always known for a four hour round-trip away. Cancer barges into your life without warning, but after a while it becomes a part of your identity, so although by this stage I was no longer a patient, I was still leaving my hospital and support group at home. I’m not someone who wanted to forget about cancer as soon as I finished treatment. Instead, I’ve really liked being involved with different charities, and although my life definitely isn’t cancer-orientated now, it is nice to have my security blanket there.

In January 2015, I attended my first meet-up with Shine Cancer Support, this time in my new home of Cardiff. I heard about Shine Cardiff randomly after noticing Rhian, Cardiff’s co-founder, featured on the Humans of Cardiff Facebook page. I soon went along to a meet up at a local café which was lovely.

Shine Cardiff

Shine bucket collection on the streets of Cardiff

Despite being the youngest person in the Cardiff network (as well as the longest off treatment), I’m so happy I joined and I still find that I can relate to the others’ issues. More importantly, we definitely don’t just talk about cancer and we’ve had a lot of fun chats during our Friday ciders, Sunday coffees and Cardiff Bay dinners!

And that’s why I think Shine is so important: despite the different ages and life stages (some are married with children; I’m a student; others were diagnosed last month) we all have one big common ground and understand how it feels to have cancer. Verification that you’re not alone in feeling the way you do; a chance to make new friends; and bonding over past experiences are why cancer support groups are so important. Cancer is the reason these groups come together, but the laughter and other bits of conversation are also often one of the best ways of taking your mind off the cancer. Of course, our other friends are fantastic, but they can’t quite understand what we’re going through, because they haven’t been there themselves. The Shine crew is different! We can lose a lot through cancer – but a support group means you gain, gain, gain – friendship, happy memories, giggles, and probably weight – but weight gain from biscuits over a natter is surely preferable to weight gain from steroids, right?!

Ellie Philpotts is an aspiring journalist and student at Cardiff University. You can keep up with her on her blog

Getting the ball bowling….

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Our Shine London group had a great night out on 11th March at Bloomsbury Lanes.  We might not have set the world alight with our bowling skills but we had a lot of laughs and we were surprised to learn that Christopher had a lot of useful coaching tips!

We enjoyed the bowling so much that we’re considering ping pong for another meet up. Got any other ideas or thoughts on fun places to go? Email Ceinwen at

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!