The World Doesn’t See My Illness…But My Son Does!

My son Ash is eleven years old and for so many years I have felt he is a very important part of my support system. It upsets me that I think this. This shouldn’t even be a fact. I shouldn’t need to depend on him the way I do, but this kid is my best friend, this kid is my hero.

When you have a child, the child’s needs come before your own, but even the healthiest mums need time to recharge their batteries.  Balance is important for everybody, but especially for someone like me who suffers with two chronic diseases; Fibromyalgia and Endometriosis. Each condition has their own set of symptoms that provide limitations with what one can and cannot do.

It was only about four years ago that I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia after having a traumatic lumber puncture to drain fluid from my brain.  During this time I found I have a birth defect where the drainage tubes are too narrow.  This was one of the reasons for many years of debilitating migraines.  Even though I am stubborn, strong willed and determined, Fibromyalgia, along with whatever else is going on with me, leaves me feeling very low, fatigued and in pain.

Two years ago I moved to Bordeaux in France with my husband and son.  The change in scenery and temperature has done me the world of good, yet those old demons still haunt me.  The ones that say I’m not good enough or healthy enough. The ones that constantly niggle in my ear telling me I am a rubbish waste of space Mother and Wife.

I am consumed by guilt. Some days I shake it off! Some days it tears me down. I could never leave, nor do anything sinister to myself, but there are times I just wish I was gone.  Not gone as in dead, but gone as in I never existed in the first place.  Then of course I feel guilty for feeling that way.

I tell myself that I am raising my son to be a man that is confident, understanding, loving and caring no matter what the situation, but I can’t help that my own needs come into play more often than they should.  I feel almost like a liar with ulterior motives.

I am blessed to be a mum. I know many that have had that choice ripped away from them. I had the choice taken away from me to not have anymore and after such a difficult journey I have finally accepted that it is not going to happen.   I have realised the need to put what I have already before what I want, because this life is hard enough.

I am so proud of Ash, he is my biggest achievement.  When I think I have failed in every other area of my life I often just watch him and think “wow, I created this”.  Then I get told off by him for staring at him like some sort of weirdo.  Family and friends always say “wow Emma, you always seem to get knocked down so many times, yet get back up again fighting!” – Ash is my reason. I’m not saying it is easy to keep on with this fight. There are times especially when my body and mind are both against me at the same time, that all I can do is cry. I try so often for Ash not to see this side of me, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Being a mum I can’t just lock myself in my room all day I have to put on my mask and be the person I want to be, instead of the person I feel.

Ash started a French school two years ago in September knowing only a few words in French. His first school report was so disappointing with many sections ungraded, as he couldn’t do the work. I felt terrible, like I had let him down and I really questioned whether moving to France was the best choice for us. We decided to stay and see how it goes as other areas of our lives were improving. I am glad we did.  His last report was glowing with mostly A’s and B’s.  He appreciates everything he has.  He barely asks for toys or sweets because he knows money is not so great for us at the moment. He keeps his bedroom clean and well organised.  He is a helpful all-round amazing boy. I know every child, dependent on age, should have some level of responsibility in the house in order to receive a weekly allowance. Ash goes above and beyond by helping with laundry, dishes, hoovering, dusting, taking out the rubbish and recycling, checking the post, translating (attending medical appointments with me, making and translating phone calls and letters) and helping his dad with the weekly shopping.

I have episodes of fainting often. I can imagine this being scary for him, but he knows exactly what to do when this happens.  He always puts his fingers under my nose to check if I am breathing.  Luckily, I have come round quickly and have never needed medical attention.  If I look sad he asks what is wrong, or asks if it is my period, or my endo, or a fibro flare. Yes, he knows too much!  I think when you have chronic illnesses or any long term illness that affects your life the people around you should have some knowledge of what is going on.  Obviously I don’t tell my son everything but I have at least explained to him what the conditions are and about the treatments and side effects. I think it is important Ash understands why I am the way I am and why my emotions often resemble a rollercoaster ride.  Children can often take a situation which escalates in their mind and they often think worst case scenarios. So I think the direct honest approach is best.

I asked Ash what he thought about me being ill and he replied, “It is quite sad, and makes me worry sometimes. You are brilliant Mum though, because you care for me and you just love me! ”

Sometimes we plan, well I say plan loosely, because every day is different in terms of fatigue, mood and pain. There will be days I will push myself so we can go to the park or meet friends or whatever is on the agenda. Afterwards I feel physically drained though.  Sometimes I wake and just think “no, I can’t cope with today”, but then I force myself to get up and do something productive. Then there are other days I cannot move and on those days we watch movies, play board games or I just sleep. My illnesses are so unpredictable that often I have to cancel plans. I hate this! But it is worse when I have to cancel plans with my son. The look of disappointment is heart breaking. Many times I have resumed my plan, pushing myself to the limit.  I am really trying!  I know I get sick of me, so I am sure it becomes tiring and frustrating for Ash. I have often felt I am emotionally suffocating him so I have made more of an effort to socialise, so the pressure is not on him all the time to be stuck to me like glue. He has many friends, that he often sees which makes me immensely happy.

Recently I had the realisation my son was spending too much time playing video games, especially on those days when my pain and fatigue levels were shockingly high.  This was partly my fault for not monitoring and encouraging him to do other things. Now we have a rule where he can play or watch television for thirty minutes per day. Previously I felt he rushed everything to just get back to playing games. This new rule has made such a difference in his attitude. Plus I found out that he didn’t want to spend so much time playing video games anyway. He wanted to stay out of the way so I could rest. He wanted to spend time with me, but didn’t want to disturb me.  So now we both make a special effort to at least do one fun thing a day together.

I know I am not the perfect mum, but who is? I don’t think there is such a thing.  I try my best every day to manage my physical and emotional health. I try to do what is right to make me not be pulled into this black hole that I am forever creeping around the edge of. I try to balance fun, responsibility and education for my son.  I try my best and that is all I can do.


An interview with Rik Freeman: The perspective of a Photographer

I do not class myself as a professional or an artist, nor do I desire to be one. I believe you are always learning and should never stop. I am a self-critic to the  point that photography evolved into a chore instead of a pastime that I was once passionate about. I’d often compare myself to others and this was a self-destructive minefield.  I had the need to capture memories, but hated that I felt I wasn’t good enough. It didn’t matter  the words of positivity I often received. I wanted/needed to appreciate a photograph and not automatically attach my own feelings of despair and inadequacy.  When you are a writer you need to read in order to write. When you are a photographer you need to appreciate and look at other photographers in order to learn and understand what makes a good photograph. Over time, Rik has posted many photographs and I have learnt to take me out of the equation and just appreciate his work, like a friend should.  My relationship with photography has improved so I can at least capture memories.

I am lucky to call Rik a friend. He is such a lovely man and a talented photographer. Today, it is not easy trying to make a living by being a photographer. Photography is such a competitive market.  Many want your talent for free, or at such a reduced price it is not even worth  your time. I interview Rik to talk about the highs, lows and everything in between.


What made you decide photography was the career path for you?

This is an interesting question that I have never been asked before. There has never been any fixed point in my life where I had ever decided that. It has been a culmination of many years of work in all types of photography. For me to narrow it down and concentrate on what I want to do rather than what a client may want me to do. There is a massive difference as I found out earlier this year (2016).  I found myself doing work I absolutely hated but I had to finish the job as best as I could. I came away from it telling myself never to undertake that kind of work ever again. A big jolt in the decision did come to me over 10 years ago while on a trip to Greece with a £40 6mpx compact camera. I took one shot and on my return to the UK after seeing that image on a large screen really blew me away, it was that image that told me to invest and learn more. I did.


How old are you and what age did you become interested in photography?

I am at the grand young age of 51 now. I have to admit to not feeling as old as I am, in fact far from it. I feel better now than I did in my 20’s, although some morning’s my back tells me otherwise. I think I started showing an interest in photography at the age of 16 when my parents bought me my first SLR 35mm film camera.


What was your photography learning process?

At first it was the same as anyone else playing with a new toy. I had no real interest other than the normal take a shot, get it printed and forget about it. As time went on I was looking more and more into what the camera could do to help me get better shots. From there it went to buying photography magazines and reading articles posted by readers as well as what the pro-photographers had to say/advise. As far as formal education goes I did not take any lessons and was not taught by anyone. It was simply learn as I go, stick to what I was, and am good at, and forget the rest. The biggest mistake I made was to not listen to so many people over the years who told me I was good. I put it down to them being polite as we all are when someone shows us a picture.


What does photography mean to you?

Oh I so love this question. My answer is I DO NOT KNOW!! It is something that gives me immense pleasure when I capture an image. When I look at it on the camera screen and I know straight away that I got something special. I know that somewhere someone will be able to identify with that shot and I hope it may bring a smile, evoke a memory or show others what lies outside of their own front door.


Describe the first time you held a camera?

As a kid I remember my mum having a box brownie film camera (I know, ancient for sure) and as most kids to me it was a boring toy, so nothing was evoked. Getting the SLR camera on my 16th birthday changed that perspective as I was amazed at how much it weighed and just how complex it was all just to take a photo. This I had to learn.


What type of photographs do you take?

As far as what types of photo I take, all I can say is “anything goes”. I have tried not to bracket myself into any specific category but that has a massive downside as I do not get to spend so much time trying to perfect any specific field of photography. I do tend to lean more towards the landscape and portrait work though which has always been a passion of mine.


What type of photographs do you prefer taking and why?

For me it is capturing the unknown or at least little known of. The surprising thing is that one of us has any idea what lies outside the boundaries of our own home. Photography has provided me with so many opportunities to show to others what lies on their doorstep and I have had many an argument with a person who cannot believe I got a shot from their own town that looks so good. Add to that I am an inquisitive person that likes to travel, they both tie in perfectly as some of the best shots I get are from places that many just have not bothered to go and look at. Another favourite of mine is portrait work, there is nothing I like more than being in a studio shooting a model and to see the expression on their face at the finished shot, or mine as in most cases even I am amazed by the results.


Talk about your style (what make your work your work)?

My style, another question I cannot say what that is, for sure my main aim is to provide images that not only appeal to others, in fact that is the last thing on my mind, the first criteria for me is? Do I like what I see, if no, it does not get taken. Even if a location is recommended to me if it does not hit the right buttons for me and I see “no shot” I will not take it. The last thing I want is to be classed as “normal” in my work, but, for some reason I am able to view a scene and get a from it a shot that no one else would have thought possible, let alone capture. I have had people with me whilst out taking shot ask, “what did you just get!”  I love the shocked expression on their faces when I show them the images on the camera. You will not see me at the Eiffel Tower or Buckingham Palace, for the simple reason they have been photographed millions of times from every known angle. I would not feel there is anything I can add to what has already been capture. For me it is a little back road in Greece that opens out to an amazing vista of fields, an old barn and a mountain range in the distance, throw in some stunning clouds and then you have my attention.


Tell me about your photography journey, the places you have been, and the people you have met

If you don’t mind I would like the journey word to be dropped, for me it is a quest! To bring to everyone images that they may see every day or in most cases things that they can only dream of in places hitherto unknown. Many doors have been opened for me and I am lucky to be able to go to places now that only a year ago would have been out of bounds or impossible. I like the results that I give and provide the answers to anyone that questions my ability as I do not rate myself as a pro and a lot of times feel like a total amateur compared to some photographers out there. However, I am now confident enough to know I can hold my own and when challenged will more that rise to the occasion. Over the years I have met some amazing people, not only those that hold offices of power but every single person that stands in front of my lens and allows me to capture them in my eyes is a hero, whether it be a private shoot for them only or a general purpose portfolio. To me it makes no difference, I treat everyone the same, respect them and also the places I go, again to me it is important to blend in and try as much as possible to become invisible, by doing so it puts people at ease and also tells me that I have their trust of which I will never break. There are of course other photographers that I have met along the way all of which I admire and respect for whatever it is they do, although most of my “friends” are online but we hold a lot of respect for each other as well as admiration for some of the amazing images they themselves capture. One couple whose work I seriously like is that of Tanu and Christopher Shiels, based in Gravesend UK. They specialise in model photography as well as Tanu also spending a lot time in front of the camera to try out new ideas. If anyone takes a look at their work you would be hard pressed not to be impressed by the stunning images they have come out with. They strive to come up with something new and at every shoot they get nothing less. Others who I have a lot of time and respect for are: Jason Garton (UK) owner of Megapixels Photography Group, not only a good photographer but now a firm friend who appreciates the work put in by others. Damien Brearley (UK), founder of the Canon DSLR UK Facebook photo page. Here is one talented guy that I know when given the chance can produce something special and a person who I like to keep an eye on as he never flinches from trying anything new or at worth capturing something from a totally unique angle. Iraklis Karapanagiotidis (Greece), Maria Rampia (Greece), Maria Douka (Corfu, Greece), Panagiotis Bouras (Greece), along with many other Greek photographers who produce some stunning images. These all add to an online community that are totally dedicated not only to showing what they do but also promoting and where possible helping others to do better.


What was your first camera and what camera do you use now? What preparation do you do for a shoot?

The first camera was a Praktika B200 Electronic 35mm SLR film camera, back in 1981. It was an East German produced camera that came with a superb 50mm Zeis Lens and for its time was the underdog of the photo world amongst the likes of Canon, Olympos, and of course the professional cameras. I have now progressed to the Canon 5d Mk3 which is nothing less than an amazing piece of equipment. I like it due to its pure simplicity, and it suits my look, point and shoot style of photography without having to mess around configuring and trying to optimise the thing prior to any shoot. Due to my love of travelling to new places or even pre-visited locations the only real prep I need to do is watch the weather reports and hope that the weather is as expected. No!! A place does not always need to be shown in gorgeous blue skies or bright sunshine, I am at a stage where I can adapt to the weather and hopefully pull something out of the bag as I find storm clouds also add some amazing perspectives to scenes. If I am doing a wedding shoot then I liaise with the clients at all stages along with home visits so that come the day I am not a stranger to them or their family and again they have a level of trust in me and know of what to expect from the results. If it is a studio shoot again to build a good rapport with the models/clients is essential in order to get as good a shot as possible.


Have you ever felt like giving up?

A question I never thought I would get asked. YES… In fact again earlier this year (2016) while on an assignment I had the client messaging me pretty much telling me they hated everything I was doing even though they could not see what it was that I was doing and putting me down for not being able to communicate with them every second of the day. Even though before I left the UK we had ironed out all of the problems that I knew I would come up against. Everything from the weather, the unorganised location and the hide behind the phone communication was against me. It was there that I decided I was done with it all. From then and now I will do what I want, when I want, with who and where I want… period! Being stuck in 4 walls in the height of summer attempting to make a room look good is not for me; no I would rather be outside capturing a stunning location, grounds, wildlife of even a whole region than in a room in sweltering heat doing something I hate. Luckily, the location owners were amazing and did all they could to help, but it was still a bad time for me.


Talk about your struggles being a photographer

In this day and age it is all too easy for anyone to go out, buy a medium priced high spec DSLR and purport to be a photographer. More fool them, as yet again for me the proof is in the pudding. My portfolio goes against the grain by being massive. Mainly because I have experience in so many various fields in photography it is hard not to add images I feel warrant what I do. Also having the photography as a second job gives me the advantage of not having to rely on it solely for an income, if it did the chances are I would have gone out of business years ago.  It is my aim to be a full time photographer and if I had the finances to start up as a full time pro then for sure that is the direction I would take. However,  it is not just the amateur wannabes that are the problem. There are so many businesses out there that want something for nothing, or expect you to sign your life away to them to gain exclusivity. Add to that many only offer promises and lies and so it can be a cut throat industry if you are not prepared or at least have you covered for any eventuality. The normal trick is for someone to fob you off with the promise of an amazing shoot or contract only to pull out at the very last second with little or any warning so leaving you high and dry and out in the cold. That is the nature of the game, for me it is just a case of nothing ventured nothing gained, just revert back to what I normally do and carry on. The one thing I stick to is quality, if an image is nothing less than 100% perfect in my eyes it will not get seen or published and again you have to be careful due to the fact that there are many out there that see what you do and think it is OK to not only use your image but also to lay claim to it, in a nutshell theft. It is another field I have got covered and to date there are over a dozen sites that have been closed down due to stealing my images. Had they had the decency to ask I would have allowed them to use them, but they did not so it is bye-bye time.


What has been your worst experience?

It has got to be the assignment earlier this year (2016). That really had me hit the ground hard and even today (3 months later) there are some unresolved issues that have left a nasty taste in my mouth.


What has been your favourite experience?

This is a tough question as there have been so many amazing experiences, but of all of them you may find this hard to understand.  Four years ago I was in Thessaloniki (Greece). It is a city I have come to love as it reminds me so much of London (Where I was born and lived until I was 20). The city is an haven for photographers and is stacked to the hilt with places to go, history and architecture. This dates back to when it was first built in 315BC as part of the then Macedon Empire, which is named after Alexander The Great’s half-Sister. Back to the plot, I have been all over the city and taken images of the normal touristy stuff as well as the lesser known places; on one particular trip though I was disturbed by what I was seeing on the streets and that was the plight of the homeless. I decided that I would try to capture images of these poor people and try to highlight the fact that in the 21st century people still had to beg for food in a system that was supposed to prevent this from happening. Not only the homeless but the old and infirm. One particular guy caught my eye, he was sitting outside a designer clothes outlet in a wheelchair, he had a hand written placard around his neck. I could not understand the Greek language I asked a passer-by if they could translate it for me. It was simply to get money to pay for a cataract operation or at least some water for him to drink. It was ironic that no less than 6 feet away was a vendor selling chilled bottled water for 50 cents a bottle… My God, I was horrified, so without a second thought I got him 4 bottles of water and handed him a 5 euro note, not much I know, but, and here is the good bit… The smile I got from him was of the scale, now there are those I have argued with over this that will say he was false, a liar, trying it on. I am sorry, I totally disagree, normally I try to remain impartial and that hurts at times but this time I had to do something. I was fuming over it, but his smile said it all, for the sake of a bottle of water he was over the moon, and then started to cry…. Arrrggghhhh, not the response I wanted but it was simply due to the fact he would eat and drink that day all for the price of a couple of bottles of water. I then asked if it would be OK to take a shot of him with the only provision was  to not smile as I took the shot, he allowed me and that was that. I have been to some amazing places, met some equally amazing and beautiful people but it is that one shot, the time, the place the circumstances that again told me to carry on. Some were upset that I took the shot and published it as well there were many Greeks who asked me to remove it, with my response being a resound NO, it is real life, it is on their streets as it is in so many other towns and cities around the globe. If I took it down who would know? Exactly.


What advice would you give to somebody starting out in photography?

Take your time. Do not rush into buying the best equipment there is, and work on your own technique. I did exactly that, I aspired to no-one simply because “my style” came to me in time, but you have to practice and practice, get to know your equipment, how it works, and what it can and cannot do. Then get out there and practice more. Ask friends, relatives, land owners etc, if you can take images for your own use, put them onto your computer and study what you have, figure where you may have gone wrong, how you can improve it. It may be you are happy with it, if so get the opinion of friends etc, once you are happy that you are issuing images that others like then go for it, but, I cannot emphasize how much DO NOT spend a lot at first, once you reach the limitations of your camera then upgrade, step by step, you will find as you go that your learning curve also gets bigger as each step will provide you more options to take and decisions to make. Go online and look at other people’s work, if you see something that you are struggling to do, don’t be shy, ask the photographer how they got that shot, what they used etc, you will be pleasantly surprised at how many photographers are only too willing to give advice and help to others. Another little tip, with today’s advances in technology we all have a powerful and capable camera in our pockets, the mobile phone, I use all the time, if anything to capture a scene and figure if there is actually a shot to take. This allows me to post it online giving those that follow me an idea of what to expect when I publish the shots.


What advice would you give to someone who wishes to become a professional?

Be very wary and careful. The main aim is to gain the trust of someone who is willing to invest in you and what you can offer to them from a business point of view. Trust no one; you have to remember there are thousands of people out there who will sell their soul for nothing if only to use the name of a company on their own work for bragging rights so you have to make sure that what you do is unlike that of anyone else. Make sure you have all the things in place, not only equipment but contracts, release forms and also a rock solid copyright protection (not that one exists) system that you can act upon as and when someone does decide to use your image as their own. Make sure you know what you are heading into and prior to any job make sure that both sides knows what is required and that this is written into the contract. Also make sure you have backup equipment should your primary camera fail and also look to see where there may a local retailer that can hire out anything else you may need, lenses, tripods, lighting etc. The biggest thing is to enjoy what you do, if you get no pleasure from it, walk away. It will show in your results and will also be a permanent reminder on bad times for you.


We all have a motto, mantra or phrase we use in life, what is yours?

A favourite saying for me is this “If I don’t show, who will know?”


If you won a million pounds what would you do with the money?

Ahhh the million pound question, simple, look after my family, get them whatever they need to have an easy as possible life, pay the mortgage off, buy a new house (with a studio) of course along with the rest of the other gizmos we all want in life. If there is any left after that lot then maybe some to a charity dealing with the cancer issue.


What or who inspires you? Who is your favourite photographer?

I cannot say there is one. There are so many incredible photographers out there it would not be fair to narrow it down to a single person. I have already mentioned a few people previously who are a massive influence to me and of anyone it has to be Tanu and Chris Shiels.   


What is your favourite photograph? (One you have taken and one from somebody else)

This is an easy one for me. The shot for me is not anything outstanding but it is the pure fact it should not have worked. Again at Thessaloniki (Greece) in January 2013 I took a shot of Mt Olympos from the seafront. It was a cloudy but clear day and the mountain was in view but, with a cloud cap that looked awesome, so with a 300mm lens my hand held at full stretch I took a 3 shot bracketed image (3 separate shots one after the other) in the hope it may give a nice HDR image when I got back to the UK. How on earth I managed to stay steady for those 3 shots even today makes me wonder, it should not have worked just on that aspect. When I got back to the UK and loaded the images the first thing I said was “WOW”!!! I worked the image to get the result I wanted and the rest is history. Since I posted the image it has been well received by the photo community and I have won countless awards from various photo groups along with some awesome comments. As far as work by other photographers one of my all-time favourites by another photographer is one captured by Tanu Shiels while she was living at home in India. A well-known American actress (Stephanie Danielson) happened to be in Delhi and allowed Tanu to take some shots. These images are outstanding, but, one image just took my breath away and it is this image that to this day will always inspire me to carry on, in the hope that maybe one day I can capture anything even half as good as what Tanu did would again tell me that I have something more to aim for.


What is next for Rik Freeman?

I am always aiming to get something different as well as trying to improve. One of my traits and one that I am proud of is the clarity of shots that I manage to get, and it is funny that the images I post onto social networks are only tiny low quality images compared to the originals and I am forever complemented on the level of detail I manage to show. I wish I had some way to display them in full resolution to all because for sure everyone would have their jaws hit the floor with just how much detail I manage to squeeze in. This is what spurs me to keep progressing, I hope to travel to more places on the planet or even here in the UK, as it seems I have a reputation for getting something different and that many folks look forward to seeing. I like to return to previous shoot locations just to see if I can get another, better shot than the previous time. For sure it is important to try to be one step ahead of what anyone else may try but that does not mean having to invest in thousands of pounds worth of equipment as my biggest ally in Landscape photography is nature itself and being in the right place at the right time. My aim is to have my own studio so I can provide photographic services to anyone that wants a studio shoot. Also enabling me space to get more creative and try other ideas and projects. There is always something to new to try, but my biggest love is for Greece and that is my lifelong quest, one which I will never stop. One day I will live there simply to have what I want on my doorstep and gain easy access to the rest of Europe and the Mediterranean islands and countries.


Rik’s Facebook page:




My Thoughts on Helen Minazza’s Poetry Book “A Little Bit of Everything”

51bB8kNX-7L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_I really do love poetry! A whole world of imagination unfolds within some sort of neatly wrapped poetic form or individual style. It’s more than words. In my opinion, poetry is art in the written format; it can be interpreted in many ways dependant on the readers imagination and intellectual background.  It’s a song where the music is played in the mind of the reader.

A Little Bit of Everything written by Helen Minazza is just that – a little bit of everything! Having dabbled in poetry myself, I know it takes a lot of brain-power to create just one poem. To create fifty is a tremendous achievement! Well done Helen! The book is great value for money. I just love the font, graphic and colour used on the cover.

Here are some of my thoughts on some of the poems and hopefully no spoilers have slipped in.  I read the book three times. Why three times you ask? With poetry I think that a second reading should be obligatory, as you may have missed something in the first reading.  So why the third reading? Some poems work better read out aloud, so I tried that. I found I never got bored with any of the poems, which is unusual for me. Just to reiterate these are my views on the poems and may differ from that of the author and other readers.

  • “Apparition” uses the senses to tell of lost love and loneliness. I love the way the story is told and the many images it creates.
  • “Listen” is a short, snappy, best read out aloud kind of poem.
  • “My Boys” is one of many sentimental poems. It’s very sweet, but I think it may have been overly descriptive and could have been improved slightly by condensing it ( ‘less is more’). I love the line “before was just playing at love.” I could relate being a Mother myself. There is no stronger bond than a Mother’s love for her child.
  • “Shadows” I think most people could relate to. When I had finished reading the poem I had many questions and I was left wanting to know more details.  Some poems can be turned into longer poems or stories. I think this is one of them.
  • “Pedestal of Light” is one of my favourites that I have read many times in silence and out loud. I like the use of language and repetition. It would be interesting to know what Helen thought when she wrote this. I think it is about the death of a loved one and unresolved issues. You’re encouraged to examine your own life.
  • “Questionable” gets you thinking. Would it be best to know everything and never have the opportunity learn again? Knowledge is power yes, but learning is like food for the brain.
  • “B4 11” is just brilliant! I was sat in a coffee shop reading this and I snorted tea out of my nose…gross right! I thought this is so me! Before noon does not exist for me, especially because I have the chronic invisible illness, Fibromyalgia.
  • “Lost in Meaning” could have been written about me. I often have difficulty finding the right words. “Fibro fog” strikes again.
  • “Dilapidated Daffodil” is a poem that you must read many times to appreciate. I love the line “You are the subject of my suspicion.”
  • “Unicorn” is just a lovely little poetic tale.

The use of language is simplistic. The poems in terms of style and form are lacking exactly that, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I think sometimes you just have to go with the flow and that is what this author has done. When I write poetry I always start with a poetic form and by the end it has become something totally different.  We don’t know what journey Helen experienced during her writing and thought processes. The majority of the poems are written in first person allowing the reader to gain a deeper connection with them. I love how each poem has an important message to share and conveys in-depth feelings. In many of the poems there is not a lot of room for imagination and analysis. I think sometimes to be able to read between the lines and have a sense of mystery adds to a poem’s greatness. Even though some of the poems are lacking these components they do have positive components too. They  provide room for relating one’s own circumstances, questioning, learning, empathy, sympathy, gratitude and inspiration. Most of Helen’s poems are thought provoking.  Overall I feel Helen tends to get a little bit wordy; less is more especially with poetry writing.

My favourite poems are: Pedestal of Light, Unicorn, and Lost in Meaning, Dilapidated Daffodil and B4 11. I really enjoyed reading this book and recommend it.


Check out Helen’s website:

And her Facebook page:

Click the link below to order your copy today:

Also click the link below to order Helen’s new book A Little Bit of Light and Dark, which of course is on my to read list:

(With thanks to Erica Latham for helping edit this “Fibro Fog” has been at an all-time high.)


All the Small Things! Let’s Say “Pants To Poverty!”

Smalls (Briefs & Bras) are very important for hygiene and health reasons, and to hold all your bits in place.  These pieces of sewn together material are part of our basic needs. Imagine being a girl without them. I know I can’t and don’t want to! I know in modern day society some choose to go without, but for some they simply cannot afford this luxury that we mostly take for granted.  Let’s talk bras!  What do you do with them when they no longer fit, or they are too uncomfortable for you to wear?  You can’t reuse a bra; well you could, but not really. I don’t think wearing a bra as a hat will become a fashion trend somehow, even though I know mine are big enough to do that!  Don’t ask! It’s not like I tried that or anything…  Charity shops and collection points do not accept them. I have donated them anyway, in hope that they will be able to recycle them. I hate to be wasteful.  The bra is an expensive piece to own and it would be a shame to just to put them out with the trash. It is important to get the right fitting bra for you and to be measured properly. Ill-fitting bras can lead to back problems.  I know this all too well.  So when I came across the charity “Smalls for All” that collected unwanted bras and unused briefs to send to women and children in Africa, I was one happy bean.

A little background on the brilliant organisation that is “Smalls For All”:

  • Smalls for All helps those living in orphanages, slums, IDP camps, schools and hospitals.
  • Smalls for All was founded in 2009 by Maria Macnamara. After several trips to Zimbabwe Africa she learned of the problems that women and children face due to the lack of underwear.
  • Smalls for All has helped thousands of women and children, distributing over 97,000 items of underwear.
  • Smalls for All recycle worn bras to fund education in Africa.

Smalls for All collects:

  • New pants – ladies (Size UK 8-16), children’s (age 3-15 years, boys and girls)
  • Bras old and new


For further information and where to send your items please visit:

So sort out your drawers today and send your old bras away

Team up with family and friends and help the shortage of underwear end

Let’s say “PANTS to POVERTY!”

It’s Not a Diet it’s a Lifestyle Change!

It started in May of this year. I’ve had it before; it’s what started off my love and hate relationship with food and the act of eating. I began to eat for survival rather than because I wanted to. I was no longer enjoying the things I put into my mouth.

I was unsure whether the pain I was suffering was due to infection or something more sinister. After many different courses of antibiotics, an x-ray and visiting many different doctors I was given the advice once again to cut out certain foods. Previously I had attempted this and thought I was doing so well. I was mostly vegetarian, I was mostly gluten free and mostly dairy free. It seemed that “mostly” was not good enough for my system. I needed for this pain to stop, only I could do it; I had to take control!

So when the doctor gave me an epic order and list of things to cut out. Part of me freaked out. Being a self-confessed chocoholic and cakeoholic my first thought was I can’t do this, I’d rather die. My next thought was obviously the one I stuck with after my dramatic tantrum:  I don’t want to be in pain like this anymore. With determination, a couple of notebooks and my head out of my ass I started planning.

In my little pink notebook to help with meal planning, I wrote a list of all the foods I can’t eat and another list with the ones I can. My blue note book I use as a diary, noting down what I eat at each meal time.

What has been difficult is the chocolate temptation glaring me in the face. The photographs and talks about chocolate bars and cakes plastered over today’s media.  I have resorted to hiding the image as soon as I see it, so that I don’t see it again. You know when you feel like pigging out on junk food, usually chocolate, crisps, cake and pizza?  I had the urge, the urge so bad that if there was any chocolate in the house I would have pushed my child out of the way to eat it. Sorry Son, but Momma has her needs! Anyway, after searching all the usual places (yes boys your secret stash places aren’t very secret, not anymore anyway) I came away with a knife in one hand, and a plate and apple in the other. Throwing myself on the sofa with a look of defeat, I used the knife not to cut my wrist, but to peel the apple, because added to this list of stuff I can’t eat is the apple peel. So with shaky hands due to the Fibromyalgia I peeled my apple and scoffed greedily, well from now on this is binge eating for me, the eating of a whole apple.

Before moving to France over a year ago I never really cooked, not that I couldn’t, I just wouldn’t. Making a bowl of cereal was as far as it went. Hey, the right ratio of milk to cereal is important and difficult. So this new diet, I mean new way of life, because a diet is just for after Christmas and a new way of life is forever, forced me to essentially learn how to cook again. I’ve had to really look at the ingredients in things and actually read the labels in both English and French. Over the past year I have cooked a lot more, but now I have to research especially if I want to eat something different from fish, potatoes and vegetables every day.

I now search often for different recipes, then during our weekly shop buy the ingredients I need. Eating out is no longer a case of I can go out and eat wherever or whatever I want. I have to either plan or check the restaurant’s menu or prepare a packed lunch. Note to self: do not try a recipe you have never ever tried before, because if it tastes unpleasant then you are left either starving or having to eat the disgusting thing you made.

It is then a downward spiral from there, because things like cake and crisps start falling into your mouth. In my defence though I couldn’t eat too may crisps or caramel shortbread cake bar, because I started to feel sick. I’m unsure if it was that or the failed attempt at salmon rice rolls. Plus to humiliate myself even more sitting to the right of me were about twenty Chinese people. I apologise for stereotyping here, but I’ve never met a Chinese person who can’t cook.

My breakfast consists of some horrible cardboard cereal that I put together using different seeds, flakes, raisins and goji berries. Out of the hate of wastefulness and not wanting to admit I made something so terrible I will eat this until it is gone, even if it does mean this is what I am eating for the next six months. The hubby found gluten/wheat free Cornflakes for me, so breakfast now consists of cornflakes with soya milk and honey (who can stand eating plain cereal? Not me) and on some days, the cardboard.

So it’s been two weeks of this diet and I can actually say it is helping. I don’t have those pains when I eat anymore. I don’t have the urge to throw up after meals.The other day I actually enjoyed my meal and relaxed on the sofa with the biggest smile on my face. Well I did until the hubby shouted at me for lying down. After meals it is best to sit up for at least three hours for digestion reasons. As soon as I eat something off the not to eat list I feel nauseated and end up in a lot of pain. Other than the pain being gone the other positive factor is that I have lost around 10lbs. My tummy is not as bloated as it used to be and overall I just feel a lot better.

I’ve had many ask me, “Ok we know what you don’t eat, but what do you eat?” Below are a list of foods I can’t eat and some snippets from my food diary:

Foods I Can’t Eat:

  • Gluten
  • Sugar
  • Dairy – Butter, Milk, Cheese, Yoghurt
  • Pepper
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Potato Chips
  • Cream Sauces
  • Fatty Foods
  • Chocolate
  • Grapefruit
  • Pineapple
  • Spicy Foods
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Soda
  • Limes
  • Mustard
  • Kiwis
  • Prunes
  • Vinegar

Food Dairy Entries

16th September

Breakfast:  Gluten free mix with goji berries and raisins

Lunch: 1 and half eggs scrambled, 3 slices peeled cucumber and a small plum

Dinner:  Potatoes, fish, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and green beans

18th September

Breakfast: Melon

Lunch: Melon and plum

Dinner: Lentils, peas, beans, rice, peppers, mushrooms

19th September

Breakfast: Melon

Lunch: 2 boiled eggs, 4 gluten free cracker breads and spinach

Dinner: Salmon, rice noodles, mushroom, peppers and courgette

21st September

Breakfast: Gluten free mix

Lunch: 2 figs, plum and a small bowl of mixed vegetables

Dinner: Gluten free pasta, mussels and corn on the cob

25th September

Breakfast: Gluten free cornflakes, soya milk and honey

Lunch: Fruit

Dinner: Crust-less quiche eggs, mushrooms and peppers and sweet potato chips

(Special thanks to Kathryn Ross for helping edit this)

Things Need To Change – An EndoSister’s Story!


Many ladies that have Endometriosis sadly have a similar story to tell.  The daily struggle is a nightmare, but having to fight for support and help from medical professionals is hell. Many ladies put their lives at risk by not seeking medical attention when they need it, and/or not getting the correct care and attitudes when they do. It needs to stop, Endometriosis sufferers very lives depends on the quality of care, support and understanding improving a great deal.  Many feel they are ridiculed as attention seekers, drug addicts, and manic depressives. It is not fair they have to fight even to be believed.  How can someone who is so ill continue to fight so much? Many put off going to the doctor’s in fear they will be treated this way and because they no longer have the energy left to fight. In fact, the pain is real and instead of spending so much time in and out of hospital, at the doctors or crashed out in bed, sufferers would rather be living their lives to the fullest, with loved ones just like any other person on this planet. Sufferers have not asked for this life, nor deserve the ridicule that follows it. Whispers and giggles directed at sufferers from what are supposed to be the ones that should be helping are not helpful at all. Just because you can’t see it on scans and tests doesn’t mean it isn’t real or there and it isn’t painful.  I’ve heard time and time again once the word Endometriosis is mentioned, attitudes change, whatever you are suffering is blamed on that, you are given minimal medications and sent on your not so merry way.   The attitudes of medical professionals add to the battle that sufferers face daily.  I can’t stress enough education, support and understanding is a MUST for any medical professional treating a patient who has Endometriosis.

This is Niki Dally’s Endometriosis story and for me a sister, a sufferer too this was heartbreaking to read.


* I live in South Wales, where proper treatment for Endometriosis is very poor and hard to come by.

* My symptoms started when I was 11. They included heavy periods, with clots and terrible cramps, lasting for 10 days or more. I was put on iron tablets because I was so anaemic. I also experienced sharp stabbing pains at certain times of the month, and nausea / vomiting which gradually happened more and more often. I was prescribed anti-nausea medication to help deal with it. I had constant constipation and / or diarrhoea, and painful stomach cramps nearly all the time.

* I visited my doctor many times and was told I had IBS, or cysts, eating disorders, depression and sent on my way. I was even admitted to hospital at age 14 because they thought I had appendicitis but nothing was done to investigate.

* Finally, after ten years of constant pain, awful periods, constipation and diarrhoea, missing school / work, and pain during sex, I was allowed to have a diagnostic lap, to see what was going on. This was only because I couldn’t get pregnant. The gynaecologist found Endometriosis and treated it by burning it. I have since learned that this does not treat disease, but only burns off the top surface, leaving behind lots of scarring, and disease underneath. Non-specialists often burn Endometriosis, but, in fact, this can make things worse as it leaves behind disease and also adds painful scarring or adhesions to the mix. Not only this, it can make Endometriosis difficult to spot for future non-specialists, which is what happened to me.

* My pain and symptoms continued after this operation.

* The doctors said it couldn’t be Endometriosis, because it had been treated – but just to check, they gave me strong hormone medications called GnRH analogues (Zoladex) to see if that reduced my pain. It didn’t, but it gave me awful side-effects, including hot flushes, head and bodily aches; my hips throbbed with pain, and terrible mood-swings. My periods did stop, but the constant pain and aching didn’t. I wasn’t given any HRT (Hormone Replacement Tablets) to stop these side-effects, and after the treatment stopped (after a few months) I felt worse than ever.

* After this, I did fall pregnant but the pain and symptoms carried on during the pregnancy. I had to have an emergency C-section.

* The pain and symptoms continued to get worse afterwards, and I managed to persuade the doctors to do another laparoscopy. This was done by another non-specialist. He said he found ‘inactive Endometriosis’. I have since learned that there is no such thing as inactive Endometriosis. What this surgeon saw was the burned, scarred areas from the previous operation, underneath which there is very active disease. He mistakenly believed it was inactive, he didn’t remove it. Instead he put in the coil.

* The coil caused me even more crippling pain but the surgeon refused to remove it. Finally, after many months, a nurse found it wasn’t even in the right place and took it out.

* As I no longer had the coil but was still suffering terrible symptoms, they gave me Zoladex again. This time, the side-effects were a hundred times worse than before but whilst I was taking it, I fell pregnant again. Again, I had to have an emergency C-section. We were shocked to find that my daughter was born with a congenital problem – three kidneys – and, having done research into the dangers of Zoladex to unborn babies, we think it was down to that.

* During this C-section, the doctors found wide-spread Endometriosis, scarring, and adhesions. They were so shocked they asked me if I knew I had it. I found out many months later (they didn’t give me any information at the time) that they had had to unstick my uterus from my bowel, and reconstruct the ligaments holding my uterus in place, as they were so badly damaged by end  and adhesions. They did not treat or remove the disease however.

* After the C-section, the pain was worse than before, but now I couldn’t stop bleeding. I was desperate for my gynaecologist to investigate and do another laparoscopy, as I knew something was very wrong inside me. However, the only way I could persuade them to do one was to say I wanted to be sterilised (even though that wasn’t true). Finally, after 2 years, 9 months of begging, they agreed.

* When I came round from the operation, I was told they hadn’t been able to perform the sterilisation, but not given a reason why. I was given no follow-up appointment with the gynaecologist who did the operation, but instead had to see a stand-in. He said that even though he felt I was too young, I should have a hysterectomy. I was told I had Endometriosis and adhesions everywhere and this was why they couldn’t perform the sterilisation. They couldn’t access my tubes because everything was stuck together: my uterus was stuck to my abdominal wall; there was Endometriosis in my C-section scars, in the area between my uterus and my rectum (the Pouch of Douglas), and it was on my ovaries and tubes. It was affecting my bladder and bowel. I was led to believe that a hysterectomy would cure my Endometriosis, so I practically begged for one, believing both the doctors and the Wales NHS guidelines that said it would stop the disease and relieve my pain.

* In 2014, I had the hysterectomy and mesh put in to hold my bladder in place. Still nothing was done to remove the actual Endometriosis. The gynaecologist believed – as do many doctors, supported by the Welsh NHS guidelines – that a hysterectomy would solve all of my Endometriosis pain / symptoms without having to do anything about the actual disease. This is NOT true. I have since learned that it is the disease that needs removing, not healthy organs. I am still in terrible pain, and can feel the mesh around my bladder ripping because it is covered in adhesions. Now though, because I have no female organs left, I am told I don’t need a gynaecologist.

* Since the hysterectomy, I have had blood tests that showed my bone density is low, but nothing has been done about it; my pain continues just as bad as ever and so I have been put on very strong pain medications, which they now want to reduce in case I become too reliant on them. They don’t ease the pain very much anyway, but make me feel drowsy. I have also been put on anti-depressants. I am not clinically depressed, but depressed because of the pain and lack of care, and the fact that I have had to fight to be heard every step of the way. My everyday life is a terrible struggle, and I can’t enjoy time with my kids, even though I adore them.

* Since my hysterectomy in 2014, I have joined support groups on Facebook and discovered that there is a specialist Endometriosis centre in Cardiff. This is the only specialist centre in Wales, compared to 40 in England. However, despite the fact that this centre is only 27 miles away from me, I have NEVER been told about it by my doctors. Since learning about it, I have asked to be referred there but, because it is run by a different health board, they won’t let me go. In Wales, patients are normally only allowed to go to hospitals in their area, even if they can’t provide the specialist care we need.

* My fight for proper treatment continues, over twenty years since it began.

There are many Facebook groups online that act as a life line for sufferers of this dreaded disease. Sisters are coming together to make changes in the medical world.


So if you have Endometriosis, you are not alone, join EndometrioSisters today! or if you know someone that is suffering please pass this story onto them.

A BOOK REVIEW: In a New York Minute (By Claudia Carroll)

I read this as part of my 2015 reading challenge ( and i just loved it! Curled up on the sofa after a not so good night and a not so good day, this took my mind off things!  This book oozed cheese and is full of cliches and predictability, but none the less an enjoyable read.

If not already this would make an awesome made for TV Movie. A perfect measure of all the ingredients to fulfill such a role.

It’s one of those passive stories that you don’t really have to think about, no hidden messages, agendas, or meanings. It is a pure cheesy chic-lit at its best. The book as a whole, just long enough not long enough to bore you to death with dribble- filler nonsense.

In a New York Minute is about looking for love in all the wrong place, then love surprisingly (yet predictable to the reader), finding you!


The Story of a Premature Baby!

I write this from the heart, because this is about my family. Miracles don’t often happen, but I am glad this one did! I don’t see her very often due to being in different time zones, but I smile at every picture I see or comment I read.

My cousin Sarah gave birth, in the Grimsby Maternity Hospital, to a beautiful girl at 3.03am on the 25th August 2010. Lauren she was named. She was born premature at 25 weeks and 5 days and only weighing 1lb 15.5oz.

Lauren was transferred to the Jessops Neonatal Unit in Sheffield where she spent four weeks. Her mum Sarah described this time as a roller-coaster, “one minute you are on the top of the coaster seconds later you at the bottom, as she has an infection.”

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Sarah got to hold her left hand as Robert stroked her left foot, before being rushed away for four hours. Sarah and Robert never got to hold their daughter for two and half weeks after she was born. Being a mother myself I know of the need to hold your baby as soon as possible. I’d have been devastated if I had to wait. They soon found out why they were apart from their newborn (the four hours not the two and half weeks) for so long. Lauren was tiny as you can imagine; looking lost in the giant incubator, hooked up to numerous machines, with wires coming from everywhere. Sarah and Robert, even though they faced a difficult time, never gave up hope and never took for granted the first moments holding their precious baby girl. After four weeks in Sheffield Lauren was transferred to Grimsby Neonatal Unit; she stayed there for eight weeks before being able to go home.  Lauren continued to have regular growth check-ups with the consultant and Physiotherapy at the Children’s Development Centre in Grimsby.  Lauren also had a small hole in her heart, but that closed up with no problems thankfully. In 2011 Lauren had a collapsed lung. She has been discharged from both hospitals as of 2014, Grimsby and Sheffield.


You are all probably wondering why I have chosen now to write their story an epic four years later. I have read and know of many in the past year who have been going through a similar situation.  I always try to inspire and raise hope where many feel there isn’t any. I often tell this story, but it always comes out in bits and pieces. So I decided to write a full account, to inspire and give hope to those who are going through this. To show they are not alone, but also to give thanks and credit where it is due. I wanted to show you that Lauren is a striving, healthy four year old and that miracles do happen.10407653_10153310897651926_4590790736754894961_n11139757_10153266907531926_1027085243768832488_n
Sarah, Robert and family over and over again praise all the staff for their care and support.  These people will never ever be forgotten for what they have done for the care for Lauren, they helped save her life and this message is inscribed in the hearts of all that know Lauren.  Lauren herself is praised for being a little fighter, a little star, which she is. Two people that seem to have been forgotten in the singing of praises are you, Sarah and Robert. As your cousin I am proud that you have come through this. I see in your smiles and your eyes that you take nothing for granted, that you live life to its fullest.  It takes a certain kind of strength, a certain type of person to find the ability to not fall to pieces. I can imagine you had your times, but at the end of the day you were there for Lauren. Every day now you have been given the gift of a child, but now every day you are giving others the gift of hope.

Not only did you go through all of this, you wanted to do something nice, something to give back to those who had helped you.  You decided to take part in an event “Barcelona Bangers” and you successfully raised £3,525,25  for the Grimsby Neonatal Unit.

Taken off the  Facebook page (

“This is different from any other car rally we know. Teams have to find a car within a £250 budget, paint it, sticker it, do whatever to it. The more bonkers the better!

Then design our own route around the European continent. The competition involves completing bizarre and brilliant challenges, which take teams to all sorts of interesting and alternative places.
Barcelona Bangers is the ultimate road trip and a unique approach to fundraising for this very worthy cause.”


So this is a message for all the mothers, fathers and families going through this – You are amazing! You can do this! Think of the finishing line: you and your precious family enjoying life!


If you receive a bad review, it is merely one person’s perspective. It does not mean your creative outcome is bad or your finished piece. As a reviewer/blogger when i do not like something due to personal taste I appreciate the sum of all its parts. I appreciate the hard work gone into making the finished piece. I appreciate the process.  I can be critical all day long! I am good at it! I thrive on it! At the end of the day though one needs to be critical only to a point. One needs to take the criticisms and be constructive with them.

If we all liked the same things and read from the same page, how boring life would be!

Support Brain Tumour Research, Buy a Hat!


Last week I was invited to like a lovely page.  I saw the cute hat picture and thought it was a sweet idea. As a soon to be auntie again I have constantly been on the lookout for new gifts. I love the whole two bird’s one stone scenario (the meaning behind it, not the actual words.) Children’s hats made by Meg, which are sold on a first come first served basis, were all proceeds are donated to the Cancer charity Brain Tumour Research.

The beginning of 2015 Meg found out the heart-wrenching news that her eldest son had Grade 3 Anaplastic Oligodendroglioma, tumours on the brain. Meg spends her time divided between Highlands of Scotland where she lives and British Columbia Canada where her son lives. Meg wanted to do something to help a Cancer research fund, and with help from other members of the family Megs Hats OFF For Cancer was born.

Quote taken off Meg’s Facebook page:

“Let’s help make these words, words that no family ever have to hear.
Let’s get the money directly where it’s needed, for Brain Tumours,
Let’s get it to Research!”

If you have no use for a hat, then support and raise awareness in other ways by sharing this write up and the links below. Also if you wish you can donate directly to the charity.

Meg’s Facebook Page:

The Charity Brain Tumour Research (Charity No1153487) Facebook Page: