In this month’s interview, I speak to 29-year-old Laura Hughes about her blog, bucket list and living with breast cancer
Before we get started, I need to establish if you’re from Norfolk…
I am. I was bought up in Harleston in Norfolk and have always lived here. I live in Norwich now and I was working in Norwich as a hairdresser, but I’ve had to give it up since I had a secondary cancer diagnosis.
When was your initial breast cancer diagnosis?
It was February 2014 and I had my secondary diagnosis on October 2016. It’s incurable and has spread to my bones from the breast.
It’s currently being treated at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital [N&N] but can’t be cured.
All of the nurses at the Weybourne Unit, where I had a lot of my treatment, were lovely. I have been really well looked after. I’ve had really quick response to any scans or any treatments that I’ve had to have. They’ve been very good with that.
Have you had any support from organisations outside the hospital?
I have worked a bit with Cancer Research and CoppaFeel. I’ve had a lot of help from the local charity Big C and Keeping Abreast. I’ve had support and advice from their reconstruction group.
How has that support helped?
I meet people who have not only gone through a similar situation, but are also of a similar age. Being younger, it’s often hard to find people of your own age to talk to. You often get people saying: ‘my grandma had it’, or ‘my friend’s aunt had it’, but trying to find someone who is younger is more difficult, but it doesn’t just affect older women.
I’m also part of the Young Women’s Support Group in Norwich, which I actually now help to run. I’ve been involved with since it started, but I’ve sort of taken that over recently. We’re not a charity, because we self-fund. It’s a support group for people between 20 and 50.
There are leaflets about it at the hospital and Big C and we also have a Facebook Group.
I’ve seen that you have a bucket list on your Life is for Living blog. Why did you put it online?
[The diagnosis] puts a lot of perspective on your life. It makes you think about what you want to do and makes you do it. My list is a way of putting things I want to do down on paper. Plus, it makes me do it because it’s public.
I’ve done quite a lot recently. I’ve ticked off about 14 things from my list. I’ve always wanted to go to the Maldives and I said to my other half we should go and do it. I’ve been wanting to go for a while, but I put it off because it’s a bit expensive. Also, people feel like it has to be a honeymoon to go there but we wanted to go and enjoy it.
And I’d always wanted to go to Ladies Day at Ascot. It was one of those things where I would say ‘I’ll go next year’, but this year I managed to do it.
I’ve also got a few more things coming up. I’m going to see Cirque du Soleil next week. And I’ve always wanted to go to Cornwall, so I’m doing that in March. We’re getting a motorhome and going down there.
The list gives you something to look forward to, which is always good when you’re in this situation.
Have you done anything surprising as a result of starting your bucket list?
I read the weather on Mustard TV!
It’s odd to be in front of the camera, doing something that was actually going out on TV. It was one of those things I put on my list because someone else suggested it, but I thought I would never do it – or if I did it would be a long time in the future. It was quite a surprise to be told that I was going to do it.
I got a phone call from my other half saying: “We’re going to Mustard today and you’re doing this.” He’d seen my list, asked Mustard about it and got me in.
It was something that I would never have really thought I wanted to do. It was a bit random, but I thought ‘why not?’ and I did it.
So, what’s next?
I want to go sledding with huskies. I’ve not done it yet, but it’s something that I want to do.
To be honest, I’d like to keep building on the list, so I’ll keep adding little things. More inspiration is always good!
I’m trying to keep blogging about the things that I’m doing too. I want to help spread awareness of it all. Social media is huge and I couldn’t have found a lot of my support without it. I’ve got my Life is for living list, but I’ve also got my main blog: Bald, Boobless and Beautiful.
I set that one up when I first got diagnosed and so many people have said to me that when they got diagnosed, they came across the blog and it really helped them. They tell me: ‘I knew what to expect; I knew what side effects I was going to get; and I knew that someone else had got through it’.
That was key: someone has picked it up, thought that they could read it and it would help them.
Was that the reason why you set it up?
Not really. I set it up because I didn’t want to have to tell everybody the same thing over and over again. I thought that if I put it on a blog, it would be out there for everyone to see – all my friends and family can read what I’m thinking and feeling.
It started on Facebook and developed into a blog with a bit of everything. I still update the Facebook page on a more day-to-day basis, but the blog is better for writing longer pieces down.
I do it in fits and starts. There may be months where I don’t really touch it and then I’ll have periods where I’m on it every couple of weeks.
Sometimes it’s quite hard to find the time to just sit down and do it. I find that when I go through chemotherapy – because I’ve been through it twice – I’m really into writing things down. When I finish the treatment I’m not really so bothered any more. There must be something to do with the drugs that I feel more like it. It could just be that it makes me want to vent!
And finally, what do you love about Norfolk?
I like the quietness of it.
Plus, even though Norwich is a city, it’s still really accessible. I like the fact that there’s lots of nice places to go for walks – and I’ve got my dog, so that’s lovely. I also love going to the coast, which is quite close.
Actually, nothing’s too far away. If I want to pop to the shops, it’s just five or ten minutes up the road; if I want to go to the beach, it’s half an hour; if I want to visit a friend, they’re generally within 15-20 minutes away, even if I have to get into the car. I love Norfolk for that – because everything’s so easy.