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26th September 2014

Today is the 26th September 2014, I am two years post-op, and am finally up to date with this blog! A lot has changed in the last two years – I have moved out for one thing, and am now at university (more on that at a later point!). Today I have been round the Welcome Fayre, signing up to societies, had my first lecture, and am now generally chilling and writing this blog. In contrast, this time two years ago I was drugged up, lying in a bed in pain, and generally having a rubbish time!

I have come so far since that ghastly day – I am now completely back to normal, although my back is slightly tender after sleeping in a new bed at the moment. I have won a writing competition, played some very long orchestra concerts, been to a number of comedy shows, overcome anxiety, volunteered, had a job and done so much more – you can read about it all in my previous posts.

Don’t fear, this blog will still continue, but it will be updated as and when things happen, and have more of the focus on my life rather than my back – for a start it’s all normal, and I’m not defined by my operation! I will type again soon with some insights into university, and check my previous post for information on my first job!

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August/September 2014: Volunteering (Library, Dig Whitehawk), Results Day and work

So, I have reached August, which means I am nearly up to date with this blog. I spent the first couple of days in August still at Bredon, and then I came home full of encouragement and Bredon blues. Anyway, before I went I had an induction at the library, ready to volunteer with the Summer Reading Challenge. This is a national scheme for primary school children, where they read 6 books over the summer and receive prizes for doing so – including a medal, a maze and a DVD voucher. It was really fun to volunteer, and I did about 25 hours over the whole summer. I particularly enjoyed seeing the children complete the challenge and talk about all their books. As part of this I planned and ran a Writing Workshop – which I write about in the following posts:

http://bhlibraries.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/mythical-maze-writing-workshop-at-hove-library/

http://bhlibraries.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/villainous-and-not-so-villainous-creatures-young-volunteer-elizabeth-on-her-mythical-maze-workshop/

I continued my volunteering at Books Alive, but also spent a week on an archaeological dig at Whitehawk. This was quite interesting, but really not a future career for me, or very exciting. It was a great opportunity, but not enjoyable really – the people were nice, but most much older than me, and the work was really tiring. I did learn a few skills, particularly excavation and section drawing. The latter was probably my favourite part, and I was fairly good at it. I’m sure that archaeology is fun for some people, but I won’t be doing it again.

Midway through the archaeological dig it was results day, and I did really well. I got into Royal Holloway to do History, and my friends got what they wanted too. We had an ice cream afterwards, at a place where I had last gone the weekend before my operation, and also had a meal in the evening. The following day I met up with my orchestra friends to watch Miranda.

Apart from meeting up with friends, the remainder of August consisted of chilling and work – my first real job at Varndean College, doing start of year admin. This was a great job, and really enjoyable. For three days I sat at a desk taking ID and various forms from the students, welcoming them and taking photos. The other four days were spent doing data entry with contact details and exam results being put onto the system – I did about 75 files of exam results on one of the days! The people I worked with were all really nice, and all had a link to the college through a parent/husband (or being friends with some who did).

Once done with work, life was full of university preparations! And therefore my next post will be on moving to university – putting aside a very special post on the 2nd anniversary of my operation date!

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Bredon 2014: Why be an M&M?

So, in the last week of July 2014, I spent my time at Bredon, as usual. However, I was there in a different capacity this year – I was an M&M! This is an assistant leader for anyone unaware of Bredon terminology. It was a nerve racking change in some ways, because I have been so used to being a member and now suddenly I was in the same environment but with a different role. However, I suffered no more than the usual start of camp jitters, and was really welcomed. So, I now present my list of reasons to come to camp as an M&M:

1. There’s much more Bible study – Not only do we have the morning and evening meetings, but we also have a longer early morning bible study, an in depth ‘wordsearch’ (seminar), and our own talk.

2. We look at a whole book in a week – This year we studied Philippians (through the M&M talk and bible studies), and it was really useful and encouraging to read and study a book all at once – especially seeing the links between passages and themes that run through.

3. You lead your own Bible study – It sounds daunting at first, but it’s a great experience to look at a passage and work out the meaning and how to explain this to other members of the group. We were in bible study groups of about 6 people and a leader, so during preparation we were able to get help and feedback from someone who knew more about what’s going on.

4. There are amazing leaders – All the Bredon leaders are great, but being an M&M means that you get to know the M&M leaders really well, and they are so encouraging. It’s a different dynamic to being in a dorm, but you still get the opportunities to chat through things, and build relationships with twice as many leaders.

5. The other M&Ms are some of the best people (and the craziest) – One benefit is actually being allowed to stay up late, and after busy days it’s nice to get to know everyone in the M&M lounge, often preparing for the next morning or playing games. That said, the introduction of early night Wednesday was very welcome, as 3am is not a sensible time for people to stay up until (not myself, I must add). It was great to get to know new people and build old friendships as well.

6. You get to serve a brilliant camp – As a member it’s hard to see sometimes what is done behind the scenes to allow camp to run. Decorating the site is a big part, and then once members arrive we do drinks, tidy up and clean the members’ areas and set up for games. That said, it’s definitely not as much work as it can seem – there’s so many of us to do it so it doesn’t take long and everyone helps out.

Before I end, I should probably explain the requirements for being an M&M: over 18, DBS checked (you can have one done when you fill in the new leader form, but get it in early otherwise you can’t come), and respectful towards Christianity (you don’t have to be a Christian, but it is a Christian environment). I’m sure if any leaders are reading, they will comment with anything I’ve missed.

Bredon was, once again, the greatest week of my year, and I look forward to returning to serve again next year. I’ll leave you with this year’s video, in which you can see the M&Ms singing:

If you’re interested, do get in touch and I will pass you onto the relevant people when the time comes!

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July 2014: Hope, BYO and Bournemouth

So, July 2014 brought with it a lot of freedom, especially compared to the revision of the previous months. However, from 2nd to 5th July I decided to give up some of my new found time to help with Hope 2014, a mission run by Holland Road Baptist Church. This isn’t my church, but a friend invited me to come along and take part and so I decided to go for it. Entering the church on the Wednesday morning was pretty nerve racking but people made me welcome and my nerves settled. My first day was spent at Davidgor and Somerhill Schools – laminating and cutting signs for their new classroom followed by gardening. It was pretty tiring, and my back ached, but it was great to give back to the community. The second day was gardening at Davigdor and Somerhill (but in different areas), and my third was more laminating and cutting at Davigdor (with lunch in nearby St Ann’s Well Gardens). This was hard on my knees, but I met a lovely woman (I cannot remember a name, sorry!) with a daughter called Ruby who had suspected scoliosis, so it was really nice to chat about my operation and give some reassurance (and also advice that the consultant I saw at Brighton was rubbish!). My fourth and final day was at Carden School, doing yet more gardening! My back hurt, but I didn’t mind as it was for a good cause. Jonny from Holland Road does a much better job than me of explaining Hope 2014 here: http://hrbc.org.uk/magazine/hope-2014/ (I am in the middle of the photo wearing the fetching purple cagoule)

The following Friday was the final BYO concert of the year, actually the post-tour concert (I didn’t go on tour because of busyness and coach sickness issues). My friends got me a lovely keyring and dish to put my keys in as well as a card to say goodbye because of leaving to go to university, which was really amazing. The concert was good too, especially Lord of the Dance, which is my new favourite piece! And at the end I got a rose for being a leaver, and also bought a sticker to go on my violin case to remind me of the orchestra.

The rest of the month consisted of my final violin lesson (actually during Hope), meeting up with friends and volunteering, as well as two trips away. I went to Bournemouth with my parents, which was great and really relaxing. We had some lovely food, good shopping and a chance to chill, as well as me joining the National Trust – we visited Brownsea Island and Kingston Lacy too. The other holiday was Bredon, where I was an assistant leader (M&M as we call them), and this was far too busy for me to write about here, so will have its own separate post.

Therefore, while you’re waiting for said post, I will leave you with Lord of the Dance:

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June 2014: Exams

So, we’ve reached June 2014, and this was a period full of exams. I had done a fair amount of revision and, straight after half term, my first exam was History – 2 hours on Germany 1900-45. The questions were pretty much as predicted – war economy and the Weimar Republic. I did feel like bursting into tears though as I hated the former and the latter was a question that covered twice as much as the ones we practised. However I soon calmed down and answered all the questions within the time. After it was over I went home, had a break, and then revised for my English exam the next day.

English was a 2 and a half hour exam. To be honest I cannot remember the exam at all, apart from the Language Change question on hair care and everyone needing the loo and only having one invigilator. After it was done I had a whole week and a half before my Maths exams. I took a day to relax and then it was into C3 and C4 revision. I think I must have had a few fun things to do but it was mainly work.

My C3 and C4 Maths exams were OK, although pretty tough, and I smacked my head at the end of C3 on the slanted ceiling! The only exam remaining was S2, my Maths Statistics exam. That was 6 days after my C4 exam, on Tuesday 24th June. It was alright, although I missed out a figure and had to redo half a question. After the exam I had a rehearsal for the school concert the following day and then joined two friends (Laura and Burnie) to go into town. We stopped off at Greggs for some food, browsed the shops, and went to the cinema to see 22 Jump Street. It was way better than I expected and really funny. It was a great way to celebrate end of exams.

You might have been thinking “how did you cope with sitting in such long exams?”. Well, I had permission from the exams officers to take a cushion into my exam, which I did, but it actually was a little annoying. When it was hot it made my back really hot and sweaty too! But it did help in uncomfy chairs!!

The remainder of June was full of relaxation, but I also performed the second movement of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto at the school classical concert. I duetted with my friend Monique, and I think it went really well, especially being nervous beforehand.

June was a very stressful month, but went very well – tomorrow means July and much more relaxation!

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Post-op appointment 4: Tuesday 20th May 2014

Today is the 21st May 2014, and yesterday I had my penultimate (hopefully!) appointment at the Evelina Children’s Hospital.

I’m not sure exactly why, but I was extremely nervous for this one. I was pretty unproductive on Monday, instead choosing to chill out and try and feel less nervous. I went to bed fairly early and woke up on Tuesday morning at 7am, an hour before I wanted to! I was hungry but also nervous, so only ate a piece of toast for breakfast.

By 9.15 we were in a taxi and arrived at the train station in about 10 minutes. We’d left plenty of time so I was able to go to the loo, probably setting off a turnstile alarm because the previous person hadn’t locked it back into place and I was worried about losing my 20p. We browsed Smiths, but the magazine I wanted was sadly absent. Then we got on the train.

It wasn’t too full, and it was a fast journey – we got to London in 50 minutes. After a queue for the toilets at Victoria, we set off on the 25ish minute walk to the Evelina, passing some posh military events (hats and uniforms were out) at Westminster Abbey; a police pavement closure on Westminster Bridge (meaning we had to cross the road twice to get to the hospital); and a fire evacuation at the Marriot Hotel.

Obviously we arrived at the hospital intact and made our way through to the Evelina. There was some research awareness going on but we were far too focused on getting through the appointment to stop. We got to the desk and, after a small blip where she couldn’t find me on the system, we were sent up to X-ray. We waited no more than 10 minutes and for the first time in about three years had to sign a declaration confirming that I wasn’t pregnant (which you’re meant to do from the age of 12!)

We were met by the radiographer I recognised from previous visits, who is always very nice, and commended on my X-ray friendly clothing, although my trousers did have a zip on them and I had to change into my leggings, which I had brought specially. It was all going so smoothly until the X-ray plate got stuck in the machine! However, eventually they got it out and we relocated to another, newer, nicer X-ray room round the corner where they did the other X-ray and we were sent back to Ocean reception.

It was one of the fastest appointments I have done, because we had waited maybe 10 minutes at most when the registrar came out. I can’t remember his name (it doesn’t matter anyway!) and I think he was Greek – unfortunately there was a slight language barrier, his accent was really hard to understand! Anyway, my X-rays were fine, I got over (kind of) my issue with people touching my back, and the appointment was over in a flash. However, then my mum started asking about issues over spreading infections and the consultant (who was also there) started talking about septicaemia and I went into a sort of cold sweat (much like the pharmacy incident in January) and went and sat in the toilets until it subsided.

Once I’d recovered we decided to go up and visit Savannah Ward, as we had thought that I would be transferred (in fact seeing as I only had one appointment left I will stay at the Evelina until I’m discharged). We got up in the lift, but on arrival we noticed that it was a protected mealtime – we’d expected this but weren’t sure if it was 12-1 or 1-2. We took some photos though:

Savannah Ward (Lizard) from the outside

Savannah Ward (Lizard) from the outside

Once we got back down, we went back to St Thomas to get our M&S Food for lunch. As we were going into the shop, who should come out but Hazel Foale, the pain management nurse! I wanted to go and say thanks for the morphine she gave me, but she was on her lunch break so I didn’t. Anyway, we bought our lunch (submarine roll, Red Leicester, packet of crisps for me) and went to sit outside by the fountain – the area where we used to sit had fewer benches now. It was a lovely spot, and I took some more photos!

St Thomas' and a fountain

St Thomas’ and a fountain

It was time to go home, so we walked back to Victoria and had a quick browse in Paperchase (purchases: two notebooks for the librarians at school, which were well appreciated) and then we got the train home to Brighton and then changed to go to Hove. We got back at 3.40ish and it is a twenty minute walk home – I had somewhere to be at 4, so I speedwalked the last 10 minutes and did it in seven! Unfortunately now my legs hurt!

Just to give you an idea of what I do after an appointment, I went down to the church for our youth group revision session, had some Dominos there, then got home just before 9 and watched the Call Centre with my dad.

So, right now I don’t know what my next post will be, but look out for it! Please comment/follow etc! (It’ll be about exams by the way)

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May 2014

I am very behind schedule in posting so I will make this brief. A few notable things happened in May, but mainly I was revising.

BBTB

The first weekend in May, including the bank holiday means Bible By The Beach, a great bible conference in Eastbourne. This was the sixth year, and I am pleased that we have been there from the start. This year was as good as all the others. It was my last year going as a young person and therefore my last year in ‘The Cave’. If you’re thinking of going to BBTB and are worried about your children, please don’t be! The youth and children’s work is amazing and I will take this opportunity to thank Alan and Kirsten and the rest of the Cave team past and present for providing a really fun weekend every year and great, faithful bible teaching. We also had a great time as a family with meals out, shopping and time to chill (and revise).

Once

The following weekend was another busy one, at least on the Saturday, as me and my mum went to see the musical Once. It had been recommended to me and then when I saw that Arthur Darvill was in it, I really wanted go! So, we took time out of my revision and took the train up to London. I was a little nervous as usual, but it soon subsided. We had some substandard paninis in Starbucks and then went into Foyles – there were so many books!! The musical itself was fantastic, a nice story, beautiful music, and an amazing cast. I don’t want to say more in case I spoil it!

Leaving sixth form

I also had the monumental event that was leaving sixth form! We had a lovely assembly to say goodbye with tributes from the form tutors and our old year head. After that we had a year photo and awards voted for by our peers – I jointly won the award of most likely to be head of Newman. We took some great photos too and it was a good send off.

So, that’s about it for May, apart from the very important 20 month post-op, which you will hear about tomorrow!