Running for the Centre for Cancer Immunology

So as many of you may know, I have decided to sign up to the ABP 10k run in April in aid of fundraising for the Centre for Cancer Immunology in Southampton – the very first centre of its kind in the UK, dedicated to beating cancer through immunotherapy. As a member of staff at the University of Southampton, I have been asked to feature in the Connects Staff magazine, and talk about why I have decided to take part. However, due to limited space in the magazine, all my answers could not be included so thought I’d make a blog post of it as I spent some time writing it today and didn’t want it to go to waste! It’s also a great way to raise further awareness of the incredible campaign which is close to achieving the £25m required to build a world-class centre with the facilities and tools required to further cancer immunotherapy.

Spot me XD.

Why are you running the ABP 10k?

Essentially to get fit! Having been overweight for the majority of my life, fitness and health have become a core part of my focus over the past year. I did the Great South 5k in 2016 with my friends and absolutely fell in love with running outside/through Southampton Common whilst training for it. This year I wanted to keep myself equally as active, so made it a New Year’s goal to keep up running on a regular basis – so the ABP 10k provided an ideal way to stay motivated and to a schedule.

Why did you choose to run for the Centre for Cancer Immunology campaign?

I chose to run for the Centre for Cancer Immunology campaign for several reasons: I work at the University of Southampton and so have been involved in the social media communications of promoting it, which means I have been able to see first-hand the amount of incredible work that goes into the campaign; I truly believe in the work of immunotherapy and what the campaign is trying to achieve (build a dedicated centre – the very first of its kind in the UK – that will potentially change the way cancer is treated across the world), and for all the people I know that have suffered, are still suffering or may suffer at the hands of cancer in the future.

How are you planning to raise money for the cause? Do you have a target you want to hit?

Yes, I certainly hope to be able to raise some money for the campaign, and plan to get the help of my sisters on board as they are much better at fundraising than I am! I don’t have a target in mind but hope to raise as much money as I can.

How is your training going? What have you found easy / hard?

My training is going…/has yet to happen! I have done some casual running/chatting with my friends through Southampton Common since February, but have yet to start running to a rigorous or regular schedule. I do have a Personal Trainer though; he helps me with resistance and cardio exercises and I have found this to be invaluable so far in terms of building core/leg strength and endurance. Currently I am trying to focus on my nutrition/food choices so I can shed a few pounds before the 10k, so there’s less of me to carry whilst I’m running!

Will friends / family be supporting you on the day? Do you have any plans to celebrate after completing the race?

I have managed to rope in several friends to do the 10k with me, so yes they will be there with me on the day. I am a foodie so I plan to celebrate afterwards by eating lots of unhealthy nutritious food! 😀

My 2 seconds of fame of featuring on the uni main blog:

More info on the campaign for the Centre for Cancer Immunology, what it aims to achieve and the groundbreaking results immunotherapy has achieved so far:

The cure for cancer? #YoureIt

Meet me in March

Meet me in March

My days are empty
They are devoid of meaning
But one day I told myself, what is there really to lose?
So I asked you to come and meet me, by the tube station, next to the greenery, at noon

When you walked up to me, dimples deep and beaming
and asked me how I was doing,
I couldn’t help but look up
and smile with all my might and feeling

I’m glorious I said, how are you, where do you plan on going?
Let’s not go too far, you say
How about that park over there?
I nod silently, let you take my hand, and finally lead the way

I haven’t seen you in so long, you look amazing, I’m sorry I’ve never said it more
It’s ok, don’t worry, it’s not like we’ve met like this many times before
But we should, you say, with no explanation given
But your eyes tell me something, and I wonder if there are any feelings you keep hidden

I’ve missed you, you say, and I return with a smile, you too
Why don’t we lie on the grass, and you can tell me what you’ve been up to, from your art to the new you

The sky goes dark, as we make our way down to the grass
But your laughter
It breaks through the clouds surrounding my heart
And for a moment,
I am reminded of the time
When we first met,
in the tall glass building
At university,
when everything was brand new
I was nineteen, and confused
You wondered in,
through an unknown door
Eighteen and cool
And that was it,
you were all I saw.
You glanced at me,
And I withdrew.
Like ancient souls, in love
meeting anew.

Now you’ve grown and as we lie here
All I can do, is look at you, as my words float away
Your smile, it is sunlight through layers of grey
I have no idea what I’m saying, but what does it matter anyway
If I look at you any longer, I’m sure you’ll know
The things that my words do not convey
Everything I wish for, but cannot say

I feel alive again, but you don’t see
because I hide it so well
You’ll never know
You could never tell
Of all the nights I couldn’t sleep
After those rare occasions, when we’d meet
And discuss all the possibilities of our future selves
The tales of all the people you planned to save and help
Me and my writing, the stories I hoped to create for endless shelves
And then you would leave, and you would always remain
blissfully unaware of everything you meant
to my present
past self.

I can feel your warm hands in my cold ones
And this feeling, it’s unknown to me
But I wish I could hold onto it forever because I know this is it,
this is what will save me.

And even though I know it’s momentary,
that we will soon part
and that this will all be a distant memory
Seeing you again, after so many years, has made me realise
the darkness that I sit upon everyday
Will always be there
As long as you and I remain apart.

So I suggest it, once more, let’s see each other again, I say
Meet me on the third Saturday of March
Under the long stemmed tree, in the corner of Hyde Park
Where we can lie on the grass and catch up like old friends,
And pretend like there’s nothing between us,
over and over again.

So I met a man…

So I met a man…

I was on a boat (don’t ask me why I was on a boat)
And a man approached, confidently
In a suit, through the crowd, afloat
He said hello there, we glanced at each other from across the room
And I just had to come over, and introduce myself to you

We spoke for a moment or two
About who we were and who we knew
Before he exclaimed, so you are both beautiful and intelligent, what a rarity for this to be true!
Can I take you to dinner, today, tomorrow, anytime, whatever you wish
Please, do not say nay
Women like you are hard to come by,
It is not something of the everyday

I apologise for my forthrightness
But I cannot see anything else beyond you, in your striking dress
I speak nothing but the truth, and from me, you can expect nothing less
Do not reject me I beg of you, lest you enjoy watching lovers suffer
I am happy to give you all that I have, the best a man can offer

I am flattered, but I cannot, you see, I have standards, walls, barriers, that you cannot climb, that you cannot meet
Do not be offended, it is simply not meant to be
Maybe some other time, when I am truly in need, but for now I am happy being free,
forgive me sir,
but can I ask you to leave?

Oh so you’re one of them are you
Better than the rest
Making every man jump through multiple hoops and tests
You won’t even consider the possibility, the chance of something more
How can you be so sure,
That you’ll never second guess?

I said stop, stop surmising me with your theories and nonsense
I don’t have time for this, I’m not for one who remains on the fence
My answer is no, I’m sorry you don’t like to hear it
There’s a time and place for this, and it’s not right now
Don’t press it.

He said you’ll be by yourself, you’ll be alone for a very long time.
I’ve noticed, that you don’t even look at the 99% of men.
I said whatever, get lost, I’m willing to wait for the 1%.
I repeat, he said, hear my words, you’ll be alone for a very long time.
Don’t be so cold my dear,
You’ll remember this and
You’ll regret it.

The Little Mermaid, growing up and sad endings

The Little Mermaid, growing up and sad endings

In celebration of World Book Day today, I thought I would share one of my favourite stories of all time and why it means so much to me. As you can see from the title, the story is The Little Mermaid or The Little Sea Maid (as originally entitled by Hans Christian Andersen).

A lot of people tend to be rather surprised when I tell them that this is one of my favourite stories / movies of all time (the Disney version), and I mean OF ALL TIME PEOPLE. The reason behind this is because the story/movie had a profound impact on me growing up. Let’s just say I had an unconventional childhood and used mainly books, movies and food to sedate myself – Disney’s The Little Mermaid being the one that I became somewhat obsessed with – from painting and drawing the images from my illustrated version of the book to singing along to all the songs in the movie (which by the way I know by heart and still do today… #noshame). All my sisters thought I was weird.. they still do.

When I say I know the songs word-for-word ppl, I mean word-fo-word.

So why did it have such an impact on me?

Being the young, shy, impressionable gal that I was at the time, Ariel’s personality, especially compared to a lot of the other female leads in Disney movies/fairy tales at the time, was totally refreshing: she had several characteristics that I strongly identified with, and embodied a level of confidence that I admired and wanted to exude (this all harks back to me being uber-shy beyond the confines of my head and home when I was young):

  1. She’s one among many sisters (just like moiself)
  2. She’s super curious, optimistic and thirsty for knowledge (gadgets and gizmos of plentyyyy)
  3. She goes for what she believes in, no f*cks given
  4. She’s kind to everyone and all things
  5. She has an unbelievable level of self-belief and confidence – she thinks she can get a Prince to fall in love with her in like 3 days with no voice #challengeaccepted
  6. Heart and head in sync – unlike many other fairy tales, Ariel actually spends a little time with her man – she even saves his drowning ass. Please don’t get me started on the patheticness that is Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel blah blah blaahh who play the damsel-in-distress card to a T. Ariel is in the driving seat and is actually the pursuer
  7. She has talent #datvoice – X Factorrrrr style
  8. And finally…. she’s fearless – yeh I would never swim off with creepy eels (wth) to see an evil sea-witch (Ursula – I identified with her strongly as well loool)

OK, so some of her behaviour may be questionable and no doubt driven by blissful ignorance and naivety – as are a lot things in life – and yeh, she went a bit hard on the ‘love at first sight’ thing, pretty much ditched her family, her upbringing, the ocean etc. after one glance at Eric (let’s be honest, we’d all do the same for a piece of Eric 😉 ); nonetheless, the key message I took from it was ‘here’s to independent women who go for what they want wooeeee!’ (yes, this is what I took from the story at like 6-8 years of age… I started reading thick paperbacks very early on so probably read too much into things that I came across on a daily basis anyhow).

You can never have too many sisters.. 1 of 7 right hereee

I was annoyed af when my sister told me that Disney had put their own spin on the story by giving it a happy ending (Ariel kills Ursula, saves Prince Eric from drowning AGAIN, and then marries him with her father’s blessings and she lives happily ever after on the land with legs). You see, in Andersen’s original version of the tale, the little sea maid actually never wins over the Prince’s love and the story ends with her death. She turns into foam above the sea, and floats away among the clouds. At the time when my sister told me I refused to believe this as it seemed like such a horrible ending – the fact that someone could give up everything for something they wanted and end up with absolutely nothing seemed like the most unjust thing ever. And so, I never read the original version because the happier ending suited my world view.

It’s been nearly 18 years since my sister told me this, and only last week did I finally open up my beautiful blue bound copy of Andersen’s Fairy tales to read the original version. And the ending was just like she said it was. The little sea maid dies and as she floats above, she watches the man she gave up her life, her soul, family and kingdom for, marry another woman as the sun sets and the birds echo the cries of her weeping heart.

A lot of people find it easy to dismiss fairy tales as simplistic children’s stories – but for me, the stories have always gone so much deeper, holding a multitude of layers and meanings to extrapolate from. The Little Mermaid is one of them. And now, having read this much older, with a more critical and open mind, and more years of reading and life experience, I can see it for what it really is: an honest and raw love story. The kind that comes with falling in love with someone for the first time, where boundless and irrational thought processes override all logic and action, and idealistic dreams and unseeing passion clouds the mind. The type where love is completely unconditional, where bleak reality hits home at some point and where feelings remain unsaid or unrequited. The type where human endeavors can ultimately amount to nothing but wasted time and energy, and where happy endings come to be seen as only reserved for childhood fantasies. The ‘realness’ or ‘humanness’ of the emotion in the story is what captured me whilst reading Andersen’s version. Dreams and hopes and desires are not always achieved and life doesn’t always work out the way we envisioned it. The little sea maid accepts this, and so is gracefully able to deal with the consequences of her actions.

So yes, the ending was really sad, but I didn’t mind. If anything, I connected even more with the story. It continues to inspire me, including my art. I find that today, the stories I enjoy the most are those that have the power to bring human depth and emotion to the foreground – the ones which tackle the reality of day-to-day life on Earth, from the gritty to the mundane, from heartache and loss to self-discovery, actualisation and even acceptance that some things don’t always turn out as we always hoped. Growing up has meant that accepting sad or unfulfilled endings is something that I, and everyone to some degree, has to come to terms with. That’s not to say that life is super-depressing or anything, but it is certainly not like how many books which have neat, nicely packaged endings, would have us believe.