Shine takes cancer support to Yorkshire!

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.  dsc_0584.jpg

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.

Shine North East – Weekend Retreat Nov 2013

Thanks to the great fundraising efforts of Drive Benfield, our Shine North East Group was able to arrange a weekend retreat break for their members, here Soraya tells us all about the experience:

So, last weekend was Shine North East’s very first Weekend Retreat – and we’re already thinking about planning our next one!!

We got a fantastic deal on two gorgeous side-by-side cottages in a lovely little Northumberland village overlooking beautiful rolling hills.

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 photo from verandah 

 We were blown away when we arrived by the luxurious cottages – big thick carpets, huge settees spilling over with cushions, massive kitchens, lovely bedrooms with stunning views and even a few with en-suite bathrooms!! Very fancy! We knew we were gonna enjoy ourselves!

Once everybody had arrived and settled in we did an icebreaker where everybody had to pick a year out of a bag (the years were written on little pieces of paper) and talk about what they were doing that year and what was memorable about it. We heard all about the magical year that Lesley met her Romeo at the tender age of seventeen, Sarah’s idyllic childhood playing on the beach at Seahouses and somehow got around to Kerry strutting her stuff, modelling her stylish new bag which she picked up during her birthday trip to York. There were a lot of giggles and a few tears too, talking about the good times, and some of the more recent, more difficult times.

After a lovely meal of chilli, rice, salad and cake we moved into the lounge and Lesley and I fed back to the group about our recent Shine leaders’ meeting in London. We discussed the direction that we’d like our group to take and it was great that everybody had some input about what they like about the group and how they’d like to see it develop.

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The vino happily flowed whilst some of the group had a fight with the CD player!! But we got there in the end, overdosing slightly on the limited repertoire of boyband CDs available! Luckily the conversation was much better than the music!

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On Saturday morning, after having breakfast together and despite a few sore heads amongst us, we bade a fond farewell to Sarah and Kerry who had managed to squeeze in just about every mode of travel in order to get there and now had to do the same to get home! What a pair of troopers!

The rest of us then took a leisurely bimble into and around the village, relishing the fresh air and the tranquillity of the surroundings. Oh, and the jewellery and nick-nacks that the charming gift shops had to offer. We also spotted another Red Lion – our home from home – and joked that we should have a meeting there!

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After a communal lunch of soup and rolls back at base and some interesting and hilarious stories involving unexpected calls of nature, and, err, frogs, we composed ourselves once more for an afternoon of activity / total inactivity.

The active group went for a 6 mile walk through the beautiful countryside.

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The inactive amongst us fetched our duvets down from the bedrooms, put on a DVD, grabbed a bucket of Celebrations and multiple cups of tea, and hunkered down on the welcoming settees for a good afternoon’s lazing. It was blissful.

When the wanderers returned and had eventually revived themselves, we all headed to the kitchen and I started on the tea – veggie pasta with salad and garlic bread. As we sat down to eat we raised a glass to our dear friend Neil, gone but not forgotten. Without him we wouldn’t have been there at all, as it was a family friend of his who gave us the fantastic deal on the cottages. So we sent him all our love together with a big thank you.

We contentedly finished our dinner but that was not all – there was more to come!

Karen and Claire had sneakily picked up a couple of bottles of prosecco and some Co-op’s finest strawberry cheesecake (OK, so it was reduced, but so what!) to celebrate Lesley’s forthcoming birthday. I was beckoned into the hallway to help with the lighting of the ceremonial birthday candles but kept burning my finger with the lighter. So Karen had the bright idea of setting fire to some paper to help expedite matters, but unfortunately dropped it onto the carpet as we stood, mouths agape, watching this disaster unfold!!! Luckily Karen managed to put it out pretty quick and the carpet is a dark plum colour anyway so, err, you can hardly see the burn marks!! We had to laugh!

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Lesley was so surprised and even shed a tear or two, bless her! The cheesecake and prosecco was guzzled in no time, and very soon everyone disappeared and reappeared in the lounge in fancy PJs and dressing gowns for a bit of Trivial Pursuit – the You Bet version.  The game proved alot of fun but was abandoned halfway through when conversation took over. Again, there were some tears but some laughs too, and in fact a rapidly contagious fit of the giggles that had us all paralysed with laughter for about half an hour!! It was excellent therapy.

The next morning Claire was determined to have a boiled egg! Eggs are banished from her home due to her little boy’s allergies so it was with absolute glee that Claire tucked into her breakfast!

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After a quick tidy up and the last minute hiccup of Lesley’s flat tyre (swiftly resolved by the lovely AA man – a very nice man, a very very nice man), we managed to squeeze in a few photos before heading off for a pub lunch on our way home.

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We met up with the lovely Helen at the Shoulder of Mutton and sat down to a lovely carvery meal, with salmon for the veggies. Lesley was starving and I watched in amazement as she piled her plate high and then covered it in approximately 3 litres of gravy (they’re strange here oop norrf!) But we all had a lovely meal and it was a fab way to end the weekend. We managed just one more group photo shortly before squeezing back into the cars and whizzing off home, hopefully refreshed and nourished by our wonderful time together.

We also returned with a little book of thank yous to give to the very generous Benfield Motor Group, for funding our Weekend Retreat. We all feel huge gratitude to them for the support they have given us and this precious opportunity they gave us to get away from it all and make some fabulous memories together. Our weekend won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Thank you Benfield.

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Here’s what they said:

Jackie: I’ve had an absolutely fantastic weekend with my other lovely Shine members. It was great getting to know everyone better. It’s been very relaxing and lots of giggles along the way.

Kerry: Thanks for a lovely getaway. It’s meant a lot to have support and friendship.

Claire: Thank you for arranging such a special weekend. I feel I have got to know everyone much better. Thank you to everyone for their support and care. I feel much better. It’s also felt like a really special treat as the cottages were so lovely.

Anon: I have had a really lovely weekend . . . Really good to have friends who ‘get it’. It has been very relaxed. This has helped people to share some of the sadness and difficulties they face. And this helps because you realise you are not alone.