I wanted to write a little post that explains the new 'Harriet Unity' necklace range because the story behind them is so meaningful to me. As most people know, I started BITB as a blog to share recovery updates with friends and family once the news of my secret brain surgery was out. But Brainstrust did the most humbling and incredible thing for me last year (read here) and because of this I made a promise to myself that I would also turn it into something that would allow me to give back to them after my surgery, so that they could continue to offer that same support to others.
Keeping the news of brain surgery secret, throughout the early part of 2019, presented a number of challenges for me. I very much felt that I was living a double life. I was determined to continue being my positive and ‘happy-go-lucky’ self, despite battling conflicting surgical opinions, worsening dizzy spells, constant MRI scans and fear of the ticking time bomb inside my head.
There were moments when I didn’t always feel super positive about the future. I’d suddenly be struck by the enormity and scale of what I was about to go through and the fear of that would conjure up such anxiety inducing emotions. These moments often hit me at times when I least expected it and was in the middle of doing something totally irrelevant. And the fear of it all would only really come to me in the middle of having an amazing day, as this just made the upheaval to a life I was actually really enjoying that bit harder to process.
Because of this, I’d often feel so emotionally exhausted at the end of each day. I’d cry the minute my bedroom door was shut and as soon as I felt free to address this scary reality. But this is why I inscribed my favourite mantra - something good is about to happen - onto a bracelet. I recognised that I needed a subtle daily reminder and something to provide a little boost in those moments when I struggled.
BITB was born when I realised I could share these positive wearable reminders, to both encourage others to trust in their own ability to handle life’s challenges and also fulfil my mission of giving back to Brainstrust.
I found out in December 2018 that I needed brain surgery, but it wasn’t until April 2019 that I finally let my oldest sister, Harriet, in on the news. My biggest reason for keeping the surgery secret in the first place was because I didn’t want to be treated differently. I didn’t want others to constantly ask me if I was ok and remind me that I was about to go through something quite dramatic, when I did my very best to push it to the back of my mind. I also didn’t want them to inflict their worries onto me when I’ve always been a huge believer in how beneficial a positive mindset can be on your reactions to certain events.
But from the minute I told Harrie, I was struck with an overwhelming feeling of relief that it wasn’t just my issue anymore.
Since finding out in April, Harrie came to all future hospital appointments with me. She celebrated over lovely expensive dinners in London when we first met my brain surgeon and finally got a date for my craniotomy. She fed me the dinner - that never looked or tasted like whatever it said it was - followed by my favourite ice cream in hospital when I couldn’t feed myself. She read me crappy gossip magazines and filled me in on the Love Island drama when I couldn’t read them myself, or see to watch it. She kept the most beautifully documented journal from my time in hospital, giving me a glimpse into what a bubble Charing Cross Hospital actually feels like when you get so used to seeing the walls inside it, forgetting there’s life beyond. And she put everything on hold, leaving her own life and my little nieces for longer than anticipated, when I didn’t wake up myself as we all expected I would.
But it wasn’t even the support that she provided in the build-up to my surgery, or during my extended hospital stay in the intensive care unit that inspired this range. It wasn’t that she brought me fresh green smoothies or constantly checked in on me during my rehabilitation immediately afterwards, witnessing how frustrated I was whilst navigating my “new normal” of having to learn to walk, and write and how to use a straw again. It also wasn’t the fact that she spent the evening at a shopping mall riding the escalators up and down with me, to teach me how to use them so that it would open the doors to a little more freedom when I moved back to London.
It’s the way she continues to be with me, even now, that makes our bond so special. It’s the fact that she has been a constant cheerleader whenever I’ve become frustrated with my progress. It’s because she chin-chin’d with me at my favourite bar in London 4 months after my surgery when, looking back now, I was nowhere near as able or recovered but she recognised how incredible it was that I was getting there and spurred me on to keep going. It’s because she allowed me - and still does - to have moments when I’ve admitted I don’t feel all that strong or brave but have this burning desire to live up to the “inspirational” title I’m always given. It’s because she cried with me on the phone when I shared the shocking news of facial reanimation surgery; something I know I need but would rather not have.
She’s never assumed that my journey ended when I woke up from brain surgery tumour free, as most others did. She acknowledged that it was actually just the start of a very long road to recovery for me. And even though it’s never been her job to be there, she’s never failed to remind me that I never have to do anything alone.
Because of the way we were brought up, lacking direction and guidance from a father figure, we do often say that the independence this has given us makes us believe all things are possible, whilst at the same time causing us to feel as though nothing we do is really secure, because we lack the security and reassurance in any big decision we make. But because of her, I not only feel that all things are possible and fearless even in the face of adversity, I also now feel that most things are safe, because I know I’ll have her support in anything I do.
Ps - photo throwback from a beach in America, 2006.