Sunday, 21 October 2018

FAKE PLASTIC BALLS – WHY MY BOYFRIEND HAS SILICONE TESTICLES AND HOW THE F*CK THAT WORKS


I've shared a whole lot about some very personal things in my life recently and this post will be no exception. For those who need bringing up to speed, meet my boyfriend Jack (click to check out his instagram!), he's a musician, artist and all round wonderful person.

Oh, and he also technically has no balls.

Jack had testicular cancer. Twice actually.

While our relationship is still quite new, Jack and I were friends for some time before becoming a couple. We became close friends shortly after his second surgery. He was very open with me though, meaning that while I wasn't around for much of it, by the time he became my boyfriend, I was pretty clear on what had happened already. He'd gotten cancer in one testicle first and had that removed and replaced with a silicone implant, then later developed it in the second one and had the same surgery all over again to replace the second one. All of this I knew, he'd been very forthcoming with all the details so I knew exactly what had happened and how things worked. One time though, while waiting for him to go in for a routine appointment at the hospital, he told me that before he had the second surgery, leaving him with not one but two 'fake plastic balls', he was looking online for information on how things worked afterwards, things, to put it simply, meaning sex, among other things. He told me that though there was a lot of information out there about losing one, there was very little about losing both testicles.

What struck me immediately with this was that so much of what Jack had told me during both our friendship and the beginning of our relationship was things that he'd almost had to just figure out on his own. It was just shocking how little honest information there was out there outside of medical sites about how things are going to work 'down there' after having both testicles removed. I'm not going to go too much into the details of the actual cancer, it may be something to come back to another day, but for now, I wanted to talk about what it's like to be in a relationship with a guy with no balls.

The two biggest changes when having both testicles removed is that the body no longer produces testosterone, therefore testosterone replacement therapy will be essential for the rest of your life - the other is that the guy will of course be infertile. It's such a scary concept for young men and while testicular cancer is rare, it's still one of the most common types in young men, which is why it's so important that it's talked about. For us, the fertility thing isn't an issue. I'm certain about the fact that I've never wanted children and Jack is very much the same. It's not something I'll go into too much, because as someone who isn't concerned about that aspect, I don't feel particularly qualified to talk about the physical and mental difficulties that could cause.

The testosterone thing though I was pretty curious about. I knew that everything still worked down there, but I hadn't really considered how. At the time of writing this, Jack applies testosterone in gel form to his back once a day, this will soon be administered via injection which will be much more convenient than him having to apply every day. This couldn't be done right away simply because the dosage needed to be tested to ensure what he was getting was right. This replaces what isn't being produced by his body any more and basically everything down there is business as usual. Literally.

As his girlfriend, I can honestly say that what Jack went through has had very little effect on me and my relationship with him. Sex works in exactly the same way as it would with real balls, something that is of course a worry for guys going through the same thing. I won't go into graphic detail, because I know I have family that read my blog - but for us at least, there's been absolutely no worries in that department. Something we have both been asked by friends is how we felt about our first time together. For me, it didn't really occur to me at the time. Perhaps because I knew already that everything worked as usual in that department, or perhaps just simply because it wasn't the first thing on my mind when it came down to our first time together. I'm not entirely sure, but I can honestly say, any anticipation I felt was purely down to being with someone new for the first time. As for Jack, I think just knowing that I wasn't concerned meant that he wasn't either. It's something that'll be incredibly personal to anyone in a similar situation, but for us, it was all about confidence and feeling comfortable with one another.

Rather than anything being a problem or an issue, there are just a couple of things that we need to be aware of or things that need to be done every now and then. One thing is the testosterone - it has to be applied to his skin so I therefore can't touch the area until it's all properly soaked in, just because as a female, I don't need testosterone going into my system! This of course will no longer be something to think about when he moves onto the injections. The only other thing is that Jack does have to have fairly regular trips to Hospital - usually in London - to get checked over. Instead of seeing these as an inconvenience though, we both take the day off work and head up to the city, get the appointment done and then spend the rest of the day doing fun things - never a wasted moment over here!

Both Jack and I are fully aware that everyone is different and people going through the same thing won't necessarily have the same experience that Jack did. Of course, finding out he had cancer and going through the necessary process to get that sorted wasn't pleasant. It was something he very much had to process in his own mind, but something I hugely admire about him is his attitude to the whole thing. As much as it was a shock in the beginning of course, with the help of our wonderful NHS, he was given a plan and he dealt with it. He described the situation as a 'faff' more than anything else. Even now, he talks very openly about the situation, wanting others to be aware of it, not for him personally, but for themselves. He went through it and he got through it and it's important to us both that others see that and maybe think to go home and check themselves.

I, of course, can't speak for the Women with partners going through the process of cancer treatment or in the early stages because I wasn't there for that. But as someone who has entered a relationship with someone that's already been through it, I wanted to make the point that actually, it's really okay. Like I said, the fertility side of things certainly could be for some people, but for me and for us, I can genuinely say it doesn't affect our relationship day to day in the slightest.

While I don't want to be at risk of downplaying what is, of course a serious topic, I do want to get across that the 'after' part of testicular cancer isn't necessarily as scary as it may seem. I wanted to write this post very much with Jack's input so that the information I was giving was factually correct, so I hope that some of what I've said has been thought provoking if not directly useful. It's so important to check yourself and know your own body and be aware of any changes - because while the idea of having cancer is undeniably frightening, the risks that come with ignoring warning signs are much worse.

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Wednesday, 10 October 2018

UTMOST ME - NEURO REST


I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that I’m not much of a sleeper. I sleep around 5-6 hours on an average night and get by just fine for the most part. The trouble for me isn’t the amount of sleep I get though, it’s the quality of sleep. I take a very long time to fall asleep at night and when I do, I’m an incredibly light sleeper. I recently got a new mattress which helped a lot, but especially as the dark mornings have started drawing in, I have found that getting up each morning has been getting a little more difficult.

So while I knew that I could be resting better, sleeping aids weren’t something I’d ever really considered. I’d only ever taken one once before going on long flight and it did nothing more than making me feel a little drowsy all the way from Gatwick to Florida, not fun! When the people at Utmost Me got in touch though, the timing was pretty perfect. I’d had a crazy few weeks and was beginning to feel the effects of very little sleep. I read a little about the brand before deciding that I definitely wanted to give their ‘Neuro Rest’ sleep aid a go.

The product is entirely plant based and contains no chemical nasties, which is exactly why I was open to giving it a go. The formula is made to actually reduce tiredness and fatigue, meaning it doesn’t give that nasty drowsy effect that a lot of sleeping aids can do. I’ve been using the product for around two weeks but have already noticed a significant difference in how I feel throughout the day moreso than at night. I’m finding that I don’t get that sleepy feeling I’d usually get at around 3 o clock at work each day. The disturbed sleep took a little over a week before I noticed a difference but I’m definitely finding it easier to fall back to sleep once I have woken up, which, considering I only sleep fairly few hours a night, makes a huge difference!

These are, of course, entirely vegan, which is something that was very important to me. In fact, reading through all the ingredients, it’s reassuring to know that the product is made up entirely of natural ingredients. For me, taking a supplement is something to improve your health and when they’re loaded with nasty chemicals, that seems pretty counter-productive! As they are not only for sleep, but anxiety also, it’s good to know that there’s nothing harsh in there! Anxiety isn’t something I particularly struggle with, but I’ve had a lot happening in general recently and have been a little stressed here and there for sure! Again, I will stress that anxiety is not something I can truly comment on, but I will say that since taking one of these per night, I have found that my mind is a little more settled in general, particularly when winding down in the evenings. For this reason and the fact that the ingredients are so clean, I would say it’s definitely worth a go if anxiety is something you struggle with.

Overall, I’d 100% recommend Utmost Me – Neuro Rest, while I don’t yet sleep perfectly every night, I have definitely found it easier getting up in the mornings and getting through the day without wanting to take a nap on my desk! Keep your eyes peeled over on my Instagram for an update when the bottle is empty, as I’ll definitely be checking back in!

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Sunday, 7 October 2018

WHAT THE F*CK ARE YOU DOING?

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'Finding Yourself'. Sigh.

Have you ever felt the pressure to define yourself? To find your 'niche'? To follow a path that you believe is pre-determined. I know I did. I'm not here to complain about my past, nor to talk smugly about my present, but I in light of recent... events, I do feel somewhat justified in talking about life choices and how important it isn't to make the right ones. Yes, I said isn't.

There's such a pressure, even from a young age to know who you are and what you want from life. Teens as young as thirteen are made to choose which GCSE subjects they're going to take, later on we choose what we're doing at college or uni as if that's our set path forever. We choose our career paths, find a Partner and find a place to settle down. All these things, marriage, home ownership and a solid career are very much a common goal for many young adults.

For me though, in a marriage that I know my ex won't mind me saying was very much not right, searching for a house I didn't really want, It felt wrong. I had a job I enjoyed (still true, got the career crisis out of the way two years ago), I had a husband and was about to become a 'first time buyer'. The thing is though, despite looking from the outside like my life was going exactly how it was supposed to, I'd never felt more lost. I put it down to growing up and feeling a sense of loss of youth, which I assumed was normal.

The honest truth is, I was far more concerned with how my life looked to others than how it actually was. Not necessarily for the good of social media or impressing people, but moreso because once I was in certain situations, I was terrified of rocking the boat or disappointing the people who cared about me. I'd love to give an inspirational story about some huge pivotal moment where everything changed, but it wasn't really the case. It was more just a sudden realisation. One day, I just had the conversation with my ex, who to my surprise was very much on the same page that I was. We spread the news and actually, as much as it did suck telling our friends and family that we were ending the marriage, it really wasn't so bad.

Taking that first step in beginning to live my life the way I wanted to resulted in a huge snowball effect in other areas of life too. I'm in a new relationship, which I will stress started very much after my marriage ended, I've made some important decisions regarding people that I do and don't want in my life, ending friendships and resurrecting old ones that I thought I'd never have again, I've decided that actually, I probably don't want to buy a house at all right now. Some of these things are quite scary, knowing how easy it is for others to jump to conclusions, particularly about a new relationship seemingly so soon after the end of another, but I reached a point where I realised that doing right by myself was far more important than doing what I felt I should do for the good of others that don't know my situation,

I'll be real with you, when I started writing this post, I initially wrote it from a much more general perspective, about how tough it is to find yourself and figure out where you're going in life. I realised though that in talking about a topic like that in such a general way, I was almost making the opposite of the point I wanted to make. Knowing yourself is a hugely personal thing and not something that can be generalised. Figuring out who you are and where your passions lie is a beautiful, wonderful thing. However there are plenty of ideas out there about how you should 'find yourself', but you'll never learn properly about who you are if you're trying to learn in someone else's style.

Lately, I've found that I have a pretty good idea of who I am, what I want, what I'm into and who I want around me. The way I've found all of that though, is completely by circumstance. I've discovered new things that I love through people I love, I've discovered my own beliefs and morals through a series of events and coincidences, I've done things and made decisions consciously for sure, I've actively chosen to experience things that have helped me work out exactly what I love and what I want, but only have I gotten a good idea of who I am through experiences that I didn't chose or expect.

The thing is, I don't really believe it's entirely possible to know exactly who you are or what you want in life because that is something that is constantly changing. To accept that though and to realise that sometimes, what you want will change or at least become clearer over time is really important. Your path may be down a row of identical houses with rose bushes and minivans parked out front or it may be completely off the beaten track, either of these or anywhere in-between is totally fine, just so long as you're not following somebody else's directions.

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Friday, 21 September 2018

SHARE THE LOVE: MUSICIAN EDITION

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I make no secret of the fact that I absolutely bloody love music. Even that feels like an understatement, music can change, enhance or dictate your mood, it can attach itself to memories, define a moment.. It’s something that’s so personal and unique to every single person, but can also bring people together in the most beautiful ways. As music is so important to me, I like to support it in every way I can. This is exactly why I like to buy my favourite records on Vinyl or CD where possible, go to gigs large and small and share songs I’m loving in the form of Spotify playlists.

Supporting bigger, more established bands is still important, the music industry as a whole needs as much support as possible in the digital age, especially in terms of buying physical music, merch, tickets etc and this post is in no way to say that already established artists should be boycotted in favour of lesser known ones. But what about those just starting out or with a rather small following? There’s a certain smug trendiness to keeping those smaller artists to yourself and I’m among the many who’ve uttered the phrase ‘oh, you wouldn’t have heard of them’ – in the distant past, might I add! But we should shout about them, share them, stream them, see them, shop them.

In the same way it’s important to shop small and buy local, it’s so important to do the same with musicians. How often do you see a cute café that you once loved permanently closed, a pretty little boutique with an ‘everything must go!’ sale? It doesn’t mean what they sold was bad, it doesn’t even mean they weren’t business savvy and doing all they could to turn their passion into a success, sometimes it just simply means that not enough people showed up. It’s a pretty bleak image I know (and I urge you to also shop local/ small as much as you can!!), but it’s reality. Now think of this in terms of musicians, so many wonderful bands and artists are out there working so hard to keep their dream alive in the hopes that the world will hear them one day.

Sometimes, you can come across a musician with a tiny following with songs that hit you harder and speak to you louder than any huge artist selling out Stadiums and Arenas. Other times, you'll just hear the odd song that you think is pretty and that's cool too. Either way, don't keep it to yourself. Share the love! If you love it, chances are someone else out there will too. Supporting up and coming artists is so easy to do and there are so many ways you can do so, some very obvious, others that are easily overlooked. I thought I'd share a few of my suggestions for ways you can do so, but if you have any of your own, please do let me know as I'd love to hear them!

Buy Physical Music
A blindingly obvious one, but buying physical music helps to keep the music industry as a whole very much alive and kicking, the huge Vinyl comeback has helped this massively, but we can do more! In the day and age we're in, it's unrealistic to expect people to completely trade in the likes of Spotify and Apple Music for CDs and Vinyl, but the average 'per stream' payout is really tiny - think a fraction of a penny per play! With this in mind, spending a few pounds on CDs, particularly from your favourite newer and up and coming musicians really does make all the difference. Especially when these bands and artists aren't 'out there' yet, funds are often low and creating a physical CD costs money, there's the production cost, the cost of the artwork and that's on top of paying to get the thing recorded in the first place! Also, there's a certain nostalgia in collecting CDs and Vinyl again that's just wonderful, especially if music is a passion of yours.

Attend Small Gigs
Sign up for news letters for tiny venues, keep an eye on live music nights at local pubs, in general, the more people show up, the more that artist will get booked to play again. I'm lucky enough to live within easy reach of London and Cambridge, both of which have great music scenes. Even in my local town though, there are live music nights in several pubs at least a few times a week. They're always worth a go and usually a really great night out. Top tip and relevant to the last point, when it comes to buying physical music, the best place to do so is at a gig, as all the proceeds go to the artist and not a third party. Relevant to the last point, the best place to actually buy physical music is at a gig, as all the proceeds from the sale go to the artist and not a third party. We have Jack Burrell (more on him later) to thank for this fact - something I'd never even considered before.

Spread the Word
Again, very obvious, but it takes seconds to hit share on a Facebook post, or leave a comment on an Instagram video. I do stress that comments are important too - seeing a video with 100 likes won't necessarily make me stop to listen, but seeing someone comment how the song made them feel, or just expressing how much they loved it just might. Physically share it too, play it in your car for your friends, invite someone along to a gig. Even if you just find one person who loves the artist you do as much as you, they may then find two more. As with many other things, it's important never to think your word and your input can't or won't make a difference.

Stop to Listen
How often do you stop to listen to a busker, or pop into a bar or coffee shop when you hear the sound of an acoustic guitar coming from inside? It's easy to ignore and easy to walk by, but these people are trying to get themselves out there and it takes a whole lot of work (and guts!) to do that. Particularly in bigger cities, buskers aren't just dodgy guys trying to make a few quid for questionable late night exchanges, they're actual musicians who want not only to make some cash for their hard work, also want their voice to be heard. Actually stopping to listen not only shows you actually appreciate what these people are doing, but a crowd breeds a crowd. Not many people want to be the first one to gather round, but making that move may mean that ten other people do the same.

I think for now I've rambled on quite enough, but I really do hope this post inspires you to share and discover new and up and coming musicians and artists. If you have any that you love - please do head over to my instagram and let me know who they are as I'd love to check them out!

With the help of the wonderful Jack Burrell (also an incredible musician and coincidentally one of my favourite people on the planet!) - I've put together a Spotify playlist of some bands and artists that you should definitely check out. It'd mean the world if you did as many of them are friends of mine or Jack's, so please do show them some love! Check it out below or here if you can't load the player.



Happy listening!

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Thursday, 13 September 2018

THE IMPORTANCE OF OTHERS

I got rid of all the toxic people in my life and all the people who were just draining me of energy, always talking only about their problems, never asking how I was doing. Yes, I’m a good listener and friend, but I had to put myself first and take care of myself in order to heal.



I was all set to sit and write a blog post all about self love, self care and finding yourself today. Those things are incredibly important and believe me, I'll get those topics in time, but following my last post, all my ideas on the topic of 'self', while incredibly dear to my heart, didn't quite feel right just yet.

Going through something as life altering as the end of a marriage is tough, no matter how amicable or drama free your situation is. Life as you know it is turned upside down and while you know it's for all the right reasons, it's definitely more than a little daunting. I'm not going to do a poor me act by any means. My situation is one I've come to terms with and quietly dealt with over a relatively long period of time, so when we finally did split and the inevitable happened, I felt fine, I mostly just felt an overwhelming relief.

So because our split was pretty un-dramatic, I didn't quite realise exactly how much I'd need people around me. I figured I'd just go about my daily life as before, just living by myself instead. Friends thrown in the mix here and there, exactly as before. They had other plans however and I'm so grateful for that. From the moment I told the people closest to me about the split, they rallied round me like super supportive moths to a flame. The past few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of day trips, live music, takeaways on my sofa, midweek pub trips and shopping days and it's been just incredible.

I love people in general, as I've grown up I've realised just how important the people in your life are. People always use phrases like 'learning who your true friends are' in situations such as this and while that's true to a point, I also think life changing situations are a perfect opportunity to open your mind and heart to many others, not just sit back and see who comes to you. Going through this, I've confided in people that I work with, I've reconnected with an old friend I'd not spoken to for years and strengthened my relationships with my closest friends that I was in danger of almost pushing away. All these people whether they've been in my life for ten years or ten weeks have been there in ways I didn't even know I needed.

In situations such as mine, there's such a focus on 'doing you' and 'finding yourself' and as I've said, I have absolutely no problems with that. In fact, it's incredibly important. However, I truly believe that you need others to help you find yourself. There are people in my life right now that have helped shape me into the person I am today. My friends are a huge part of the reason I'm the strong and resilient person I am today. The unwavering love from the people surrounding me shows me that I can love again, that I can be truly, completely happy without feeling guilty about that.

It's not even just those already in your life either. I've had huge amounts of support from absolute strangers on the internet, their words meaning so much and showing me that I'm not the only one to have gone through a situation that was so alien to me. It's also not even those that know your situation, I had a conversation with lovely member of staff in a cocktail bar on Monday who was telling me all about how his motto was not 'You Only Live Once', but 'Live Every Day and Die Only Once' - a tad morbid on first listen, but his point resonated with me. Every day might not be the best ever, but you're living it, every experience is a lesson and a memory and you'll always have that. Learning from those around you is something that will always help shape your personality and outlook on life and we should never ever stop doing that or write it off in a tunnel-visioned bid to be independent.

So, I'm challenging you to recognise the importance of others - have a meaningful chat with someone you already know and love, reach out to someone you've lost touch with, compliment, converse with or help someone you don't know at all. Make someones day or let someone make yours. You are the most important person in your life, but there are a whole heap of people willing to help you love the hell out of who you are.

Special thanks to the beautiful people I'm surrounded by right now, you know exactly who you all are.

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