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POST 40: An Overview of my COMPLETED 40 Challenges B440 :-)

October 2013 saw me sat in front of the TV making that decision that doing 40 Challenges B440 would be a great way to raise a bit of money for Myeloma UK, raise a bit more awareness, and at the same time do something positive about the fact that I have this bugger of a cancer! I set my target at £4,000 and hoped I could reach it.

I spent the next two months coming up with ideas of what those challenges could be and setting the whole thing up. Little did I know that by the end of it, I would have reached thousands of people via twitter and facebook, and raised over £18,000 (nearly £21,000 if you take gift aid into account!).

THANK YOU to absolutely everyone who has donated prizes, money, time, and moral support to me! I couldn’t have done it without you all. And an extra big thank you to my family, especially Nick, who have pretty much lost me for the past year whilst I’ve done it. Finally, I wanted to thank my mum. Many of you will know that I sadly lost her last year, but she was an amazing support to me and instrumental in helping me complete some of my challenges. Finishing these challenges had to happen…..I knew she would want me to.

So here is my summary of my 40 Challenges B440 and my journey along the way! And if you would still like to donate, details of how to do so are at the end! Here’s to success!

OCTOBER 2013:

Announced my plans for 40 Challenges and none of you were kind enough to talk me out of it!! www.justgiving.com/deb-gascoyne was set up!

NOVEMBER 2013:

Slightly early (Ooops hope it still counts!), I set up the idea of my Challenge 49: To get 40 people to donate to Myeloma UK instead of donating Christmas cards. Raised £675 from this challenge and started the ball rolling with 40B440!

One challenge completed

JANUARY 2014:

January saw the ‘official’ launch of my 40 Challenges B440 and the hard push on my Lent Challenge, my Business Challenge and my raffle prize challenge.

Donations started to flood in and by the end of January I had already reached £1,000

FEBRUARY 2014:

993012_10151910039327267_1069067119_n-2

Challenge 12 completed: To sell 40 red roses in aid of Myeloma UK.

Thanks to Hire Heaven who donated the roses to me, and Lisa who helped me take them round and sell them, this challenge raised over £200!

February saw me having recruited over 40 people for Challenge 8 – To get 40 people to give up something for Lent and to be sponsored for it! I began mine early due to a holiday Nick and I had booked in for March and I managed 46 days of giving up wine, crisps and nuts!

Two challenges completed!

MARCH 2014:

By the first March, I added, and completed Challenge 41 – To sell 40 Myeloma UK trolley/locker keyrings! This raised over £40 and they were sold within 24 hours of putting them out there! (I still have a few left if anyone wants one!

March also saw my ‘Lent challengers‘ starting their challenge, and me finishing my Lent challenge. Within one week, it had raised over £2,000 which was just amazing.

Four challenges completed!

APRIL 2014:

April was another good month. Those ‘lenters’ completed their challenge and helped me to complete Challenge 8 – it raised a whopping £5,000 for Myeloma UK, along with raising loads of awareness as they collected their sponsorship. One lady who gave up chocolate even walked around with a big bar round her neck all day!

In addition to this, Nick and I did a car boot sale and raised over £40 as per Challenge 28.

And finally, I went to Go Ape with a group of lovely friends and ended up doing a 160m zip wire (which for someone who doesn’t particularly like jumping from heights was quite a challenge!) So that was Challenge 46 finished too 🙂

In April, I changed Challenge 1 to being ‘Get 40 people to undertake one challenge in aid of Myeloma UK’. This was launched and I started to have people signing up to help with this one.

IMG_1802IMG_1588 IMG_1802April also saw a big dent being made in Challenge No.40 – to get letters from 40 different countries. This one was more about awareness than it was of raising money, and by the 4th April, I had received letters from 29 different countries. It made me feel amazing that we had reached that far across the globe, telling people what myeloma was along the way. The letters I got were a real mix, and I had everything from one liners through to long letters with life stories and laughs in them.

At this stage of the challenges, I decided that I had already thrashed the £4,000 target due to everyone’s help and so we increased it to £10,000. Why make it easy?! I still had 9 months to go so wanted to push for as much as I could.

7 Challenges completed.

MAY 2014:

May again saw some fun challenges being completed. It started on the 1st May with Challenge 47 – Pulling 40 pints. This raised lots more awareness and thanks to the George and Dragon’s kindness, we raised just over £200. I also got to go re-live my Uni days being back behind a bar!! Absolutely shattered by the end of it but didn’t stop smiling throughout!

On the 2nd May, I began Challenge 33 ‘A sponsored silence for 40 hours’. Oh. My. God. I had to start it twice and in the end, I had to add time on the end for the slip ups I made. I can’t begin to tell you how hard this sort of challenge is and how just not being able to say your ‘please’s’ and ‘thankyou’s’ is nearly impossible! I did however finally finish it……after much unhappiness!

On the 14th May, I finished yet another challenge after having had my friend teaching me how to knit. Challenge 30 – to knit 40 rows was finished, although I am slightly sheepish to admit that I still haven’t finished the scarf as I haven’t yet worked out how to finish it and cast off! Rebecca is not happy with me as she really wanted the scarf for the winter months!

Also in May (yes it was a VERY strong month!), I completed Challenge 2 (to climb 40 floors) and Challenge 20 (to get 40 balls in a netball hoop in 4 minutes). I was lucky to have an old work colleague of mine come with me and arrange the first challenge and whilst I still can’t tell you the secret venue, I can tell you that we did it! Challenge 20 was a lovely one to do on a sunny afternoon…and I must have been on form that day (my shooting skills certainly weren’t that sharp when I was playing with my Back to Netball lot the other day!)

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12 challenges achieved

JUNE 2014:

In June, I was lucky to keep my friends! I did a massive takeover bid on their tabletop sale! Luckily they were really

understanding and I managed to tick off another couple of challenges. Challenge 10 – to get 40 cakes made/ donated and Challenge 34 – to make 40 cups of tea! We raised over £500 and lots of awareness on the day so it was a great success!

The week after, Rebecca’s taekwondo club were very kind and offered to help me achieve Challenge 24 – to get a group of people to do 10,000 taekwondo kicks. The children were just amazing and we raised over £200 from this challenge…and crossed yet another one off

This was Myeloma Awareness Week too so it was a great month to have achieved some more challenges and to have told lots more people about what myeloma is (I’m hoping you all know now!!)

15 challenges complete

JULY 2014:

In July we nearly, nearly got to the halfway point as we completed three more challenges. I completed my letter challenge (Challenge 40) and received my 40th letter. We really did have letters from all over the globe…from England to China, to New Zealand and even Antarctica! I am so grateful to the fact that people who didn’t even know me were prepared to go out of their way to write to me.

In addition, Nick and I managed to complete another challenge with the kids. It was nice to have one that really involved my 3 most favourite people in the world and this one certainly did that as we went to the zoo and saw 40 different animals! I’m not sure who enjoyed it most….and I did get a bit confused at the monkey cage as to who was who (ok that wasn’t particularly funny, but it’s a bit of a family joke!)

Challenge 38 was also completed and this one was great fun: Get 40 people to conga through the park. West Wycombe Village Events team kindly let me do this in West Wycombe Park when they held their amazing summer fayre. It was a great summer day and we did this raising more money and awareness through the conga and the stall that I also ran for the day.

The final challenge in July was one of my favourites: my fruit challenge. Challenge 14 was to eat 40 different types of fruit. Thanks to the lovely Mister Truffle, Brooklands Hotel, and Entremettier, I went along and not only tried 40 different types of fruit, but also had a large number of fruit dishes prepared for me. It really was an amazing experience which was a lovely thing to do!

40 Fruits! Sucking lemons! IMG_2388 IMG_2285

19 challenges complete

AUGUST 2014:

So in August, I finally hit the half-way point…..on target still for reaching 40 by January 25th 2015! And what was even more amazing, was that I was still alive at the end of it….and so were the people who helped me achieve it. So what was it? It was Challenge 6 – To do 40 pubs in 40 hours!

We did slightly split this between Wycombe and London pubs but it was a great 40 hours, all of which I am pleased to say, I can remember…..I’m not sure Nick can say the same thing 😉 In doing so, we managed to talk to lots of people about myeloma, and also raised over £550!

20 challenges completed

SEPTEMBER 2014:

In September, we managed to complete Challenge 1: To get 40 people to do 1 challenge each. I think I probably owe quite a lot to the fact that the Ice-bucket challenge came out at this time, and LOADS of people were kind enough to do it for Myeloma UK and my 40 Challenges B440.  But as well as that, I had friends holding wine tasting evenings, quilts being made and raffled, netball tournaments, 40 ebay sales, 3 Peaks challenges and cake sales (and I’m sorry if I’ve missed anyone!) I think we may still have 1/2 an ironman to take place too!

I’d also spent the last 9 months looking for prizes for my raffle which was being held in December and by September, I’d managed to collect 30. I was also doing really well with my challenge needing famous signatures and had reached 30! But it was a quiet month in terms of completing challenges and time was marching on…..was I losing my grip on achieving these challenges or could I still make it?

21 Challenges achieved

OCTOBER 2014:

October saw another one of my big challenges being achieved.

The one I think I am most proud of was running 40km in 4 days. I didn’t quite make it in 4 consecutive days, but I managed 4 runs of over 10km in a 5 day period! IMG_3275Finishing in the pouring rain despite my promise to Nick I wouldn’t run in the rain in case I got ill! I was too close to take note of that for once! For someone who hates running, this was an amazing achievement, and it has also given me a love-hate relationship with running which means that I do still go when I can get out!IMG_3485

Challenge 23 – Get 40 Famous signatures. I hadn’t really thought this through when I set it, but it allowed me to auction off all of the signatures at the end and therefore actually became a fundraising challenge too! I still have some left to auction/ re-auction but we raised nearly £1000 due to everybody’s generosity!

I also got to take a slight rest in October as I completed Challenge 32 – to stay in bed for 40 hours! Now even I have to admit that this IMG_3341was quite a nice challenge which allowed me to catch up on a few other challenges. That said, I wasn’t overly impressed when Nick wouldn’t bring me more than 2 glasses of wine upstairs! Whilst I was there I also finished Challenge 44 – to play 40 consecutive games of cards. The kids helped me with this and we played rummy and Uno until even I didn’t want to play again!

By now, we had thrashed the £10,000 and were closer to £14,000 which was just amazing! But of course I then hoped I’d raise over £16,000….talk about moving the goalposts!

25 challenges completed

NOVEMBER 2014:

Another five challenges completed this month meant that I started to believe that just perhaps, I could actually achieve my 40 Challenges B440.

The first one was Challenge 21 – Getting people to knit 40 myeloma buddies. Thanks to so many people for getting their needles out and clicking away as at least 44 reached Myeloma UK…all of which will be sold in aid of the charity.

I also ticked off Challenge 15 – to iron 40 items of clothing in 40 minutes! Now for a lady who doesn’t iron, this was pretty impressive going….although I couldn’t have done it without Nick handing each item to me and taking it off me!

I also managed to make and sell 40 cards, thereby completing Challenge 36! This raised over £100 thanks to a lovely lady called Claire donating all of the materials, and lots of time helping me!

And finally, I had a great day out in London with lovely friends, shopping for an outfit for £40 (my own money I promise you!). After a very dodgy start realising that Camden was as expensive as anywhere else, we managed to find the outfit, mainly from….yes you guessed it, Primark! And so Challenge 17 was completed! And whilst we did it, we also endured the hardship of celebrating the finish of Challenge 16 – to try 40 different bottles of wine! Now that was my type of challenge! And I have to thank my friend Annie for hosting a wine tasting for this which raised over £200, and my sister Chris for coming and staying with us and…..enduring the hardship of getting through around 17 bottles in 10 days! Hmmmmmm!

30 challenges achieved

DECEMBER 2014:

Unfortunately at the end of November I lost my mum in a car accident. As you can imagine, things came somewhat to a halt and I wondered whether I actually could continue with the challenges. It was the last thing I really wanted to think about. But, despite everything, I knew that she would have wanted me to carry on….she would have wanted to hear me tell her that I had reached that target that she herself had worked hard to help me with.

So less than one week after her death, I was selling my raffle prizes at our Christmas fayre in the village. That was Challenge IMG_3553 IMG_356748 – to get 40 raffle prizes donated! I would imagine that we raised between £500 and £1000 from this raffle…a little hard to say as some money came from donations and some went on the website…but no matter, it all went to Myeloma UK 🙂

I was then lucky enough to have a company called Neal’s Yard, based in Borough Market, agreeing to donate 40 different types of cheese to me! This was for Challenge 42. We took them to our family Christmas do and it was a lovely fun thing to do at a slightly sad time in our life. I actually think that having something like that to focus on was really special, and I wonder if it might become a family tradition….perhaps chocolate next time, knowing my family!

IMG_3586 IMG_3583

32 challenges achieved

JANUARY 2015:

So I began January still having 8 challenges to actually complete…..luckily I had some knowledge that were quite a few that were very close to completion! We began on the 2nd with Challenge 27 finishing – this was to get 40 famous people to

retweet about my challenge. I hope that this will have spread the word a little about myeloma! I know for definite that there was loads of interest in the McFly retweet that we got!!! We also finished with the Chuckle brothers which was hilarious!

I also completed Challenge 9 on this date – to tell 40 people what myeloma is. To be honest, I probably achieved this challenge right at the beginning as you could argue that within each challenge, new people were hearing about myeloma and what it was. But me being me, just couldn’t make it that easy and had to have people specifically telling me that they had heard about it due to the challenges! Stubborn? Me?

So with 6 to go, I decided it was time to brave the brussel sprout challenge of eating 40 brussell sprouts as close to the 4 minute mark as I could. I still think I’d have done it in 4 minutes if they hadn’t been boiling hot when I did it! If you want a laugh on this, take a look at this link.…I don’t seem to be able to link it to the blog itself! Luckily, I don’t seem to suffer from the usual after-effects….although I’m still not sure that is healthy!

On the same day, I also decided to do Challenge 13 which involved doing 40 lots of 20 second planks. Now that might sound easy, but I can tell you it gets harder and harder when you have more of a 20 pack than a 6 pack! But I did it and ticked another challenge off…just 4 to go as of the 6th January!

I have been so lucky at how generous people have been….and especially people who don’t even know me. January saw the completion of Challenge 11 – to get 40 businesses to donate £40. In fact, I am now up to 41 businesses and still have a couple more who promised to donate.

Another really important challenge was No.22 – to get the revised Myeloma Diagnosis Pathway taken to 40 GP surgeries. If you read yesterday’s POST 39 you’ll have read how rare myeloma is and how rarely doctors get to see it. So making sure that they are reminded of the symptoms is really key! And we’ve done it, getting it out as far as Canada and Australia!

I am so pleased to say that I received the last batch of birthday cards completinIMG_3881g Challenge 26. This was a challenge I really didn’t think I’d manage and I am so grateful to all the lovely aquarians born on the 25th who, thanks to a major facebook campaign, sent me a card! Fab! I’ve had over 50 cards in total so it raised a fantastic amount of awareness….happy birthday to you all for tomorrow!

So that leaves me with one challenge as I write this post. And that is completing this post itself which was Challenge 19 – to write 40 blog posts! Which means that if you’re reading this, I have……..

*************************FINISHED 40 CHALLENGES B440!!! Whoop diddly whoop whoop!!! *******************************

In addition I will be  having a party for over 40 people tonight and so will have finished yet another! And, in the meantime, I also hope to read my 40th book, and also to bead a necklace with 40 beads….taking me to the grand total of 43 challenges out of 50! Not bad!

In reality, I am actually VERY proud of what I have achieved….and VERY proud of the friends and family who have helped me to achieve it. This will mean that we have raised £87,000 for Myeloma UK over the past 5 years since I was diagnosed. An amazing sum of money that will achieve so much for the charity. At some point, I WILL take that to £100,000 but for now, I have promised Nick to put the family first for a year, to enjoy both of our 40th’s, and to have some quality time together. Starting with tonight……party time!!!

DON’T FORGET TO DONATE BELOW IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY 🙂

40th-birthday

If you would like to sponsor me with my #40ChallengesB440, to support Myeloma UK and help make myeloma history, please either

go to http://www.justgiving.com/Deb-Gascoyne

or

text ‘DEBG99 £X’ to 70070

e.g ‘DEBG99 £40′ if you want to donate £40

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POST 39 – 10 Facts about myeloma and Myeloma UK that you might not have known!

So for my second to last ‘official 40B440’ post, I thought I’d go back to the grassroots and tell you some bits and pieces about myeloma and Myeloma UK that you didn’t (or perhaps did!) know. I hope they’re of some interest to you! Some of them I didn’t know about either!

To start with, a brief overview of myeloma though….Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a cancer arising from plasma cells, a type of cell made in the bone marrow that forms part of your immune system. Unlike many other cancers, myeloma does not exist as a lump or tumour which can often confuse people.

FACT 1:

The current treatment of multiple myeloma has improved markedly compared with the rhubarb pill and infusion of orange peel that was given to Sarah Newbury in 1844! Whatever we may think about our treatment regimes nowadays, we have definitely moved on!

FACT 2:

There are approximately 4,800 people diagnosed with myeloma every year in the UK. It is the second most common form of bone marrow cancer, but only represents 1% of all cancers

FACT 3: 

20% of people die of myeloma within the first 60 days of diagnosis. This is largely due to late diagnosis allowing progression of the disease.

Since my diagnosis in 2009, I am pleased to say that the average life expectancy has now moved from 2-5 years, to around 7 years…..and is improving each year as new treatments are being identified. In fact, survival rates are increasing faster than in any other cancer in the UK!!! Great news for many myeloma patients.

FACT 4:

Myeloma is a relapsing-remitting cancer. This means there are periods when the myeloma is causing symptoms and needs to be treated, followed by periods of stable disease where the myeloma does not cause symptoms and does not require treatment

FACT 5:

The causes of myeloma are not fully understood but it is thought to be caused by an interaction of both genetic and environmental factors

FACT 6:

On average GP’s will only see one patient with myeloma in their entire career. This is why awareness is absolutely crucial.

FACT 7:

The ring around the “My” in the Myeloma UK logo emphasises the individual nature of myeloma (every patient’s experience of thMyeloma logo CMYK for printe disease is unique) and represents a plasma cell, a type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system and can transform into a myeloma cell.

FACT 8:

Myeloma UK established the Clinical Trial Network in 2009 to prioritise the most promising drugs in development and get those treatments to myeloma patients in the UK faster. The CTN continues to grow and has halved the average time it takes to set up a clinical trial. This is critical with a cancer that sadly is taking many lives each year.

FACT 9:

Myeloma UK receives no government or NHS funding. Their work is made possible by the generous support of fundraisers (yes, that’s us!) and donors and they work strategically to make every penny count.

FACT 10:

The majority of funds is dedicated to research into better treatments. The Myeloma Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, London is a world-leader in the field of myeloma biology and genetics.

40th-birthday

If you would like to sponsor me with my #40ChallengesB440, to support Myeloma UK and help make myeloma history, please either

go to http://www.justgiving.com/Deb-Gascoyne

or

text ‘DEBG99 £X’ to 70070

e.g ‘DEBG99 £40′ if you want to donate £40

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POST 37: Don’t read this post if you’re squeamish!!!

I’m so lucky that I have now been in remission for 3.5 years, a timescale that I never imagined when I was first diagnosed, and certainly didn’t expect even after my Stem Cell Transplant (SCT) that I had in 2011. It is 5.5 years since I was diagnosed.

I honestly believe that part of why I have done so well since my transplant is because of maintenance therapy. I have been on a drug called revlimid since October 2011 as part of the Myeloma XI trial that I am on. Revlimid isn’t available to a lot of patients like this as you have to be on a trial to get it…it costs £000’s a month! Luckily I got randomised to it due to the trial, and the drugs company pays for me to have it until the day I relapse. Long may that be!

Revlimid is a type of chemo that is in tablet form. I take one little tablet every day for two weeks and then have two weeks off. When I had it for 3 weeks, it used to lower my neutrophils, which meant that my immune system was very poor and I was regularly ill. So over the past couple of years especially, my health has been fairly predictable and fairly constant. I am not ill so regularly as I used to be, and whilst I tend to take longer to recover when I am ill, I have generally been pretty healthy!

Unfortunately, just before Christmas, this all seemed to change. I was finding that I was getting cramping and needing the toilet more than before. (I told you not to read this if you were squeamish!). As the weeks went on, it seemed to get worse, and it was really affecting my life. I particularly remember the time on the train after a nice day out in London, where poor Nick and the kids had to sit on a platform halfway home, while I located the nearest toilet for over half an hour!

Eventually I realised that perhaps I needed to make it clear to the Marsden exactly what was going on…and needed to bury my embarrassment. It was far worse having to deal with these unexpected and frankly mortifying experiences….and there was a chance that it could happen at an even worse time! So I told my consultant, and they referred me for something called a SeHCat scan that monitors bowel movements. They were so good at taking it seriously, partially because they know that revlimid can cause an issue called ‘Bile Malabsorption’ where your bile isn’t reabsorbed properly, and partially because of my mum having had bowel cancer 4 years ago.

As is always the case, it seemed to get better after I’d been for the scan and so I decided I was going to get told that I was fine. In the meantime a good friend of mine who is at a similar stage post transplant, and also on revlimid, told me that they had suffered similarly and that there was medications I could go on. Anyway the long and short of it, is that I have now been diagnosed with Bile Malabsorption. Apparently people who have this, are often mistaken for having IBS and it is much more common than you know!

I’m pleased to report that since I started on the treatment (lots of huge pills!), I seem to be significantly better and the tablets are definitely doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Which is a good sign that it is nothing more sinister.

I know it’s an odd post to publicise and I did think twice about it….. it’s an embarrassing topic really. But I know that I just needed that push to get it looked at and now it has changed my life. I don’t have to worry about the nearest toilet anymore, and I know that it is controllable. The day may come where I have to cut fat out of my diet (might not be a bad thing!), but for now, that wouldn’t be enough to stop me needing the tablets and so I can just rely on them. So I thought that it might help someone else who is reading this blog with myeloma…..or for that matter, anyone else who is reading it who has general cramping and bowel issues.

40 Challenges B440 update!

Just a couple of sentences to say that I only need to complete 2 more challenges now! One will be my party on the 24th, and I’m also hoping to complete the; book challenge, necklace challenge and the birthday card challenge!

If any businesses out there were wanting to sponsor that challenge, please don’t feel that you can’t know that I’ve reached 40….I would love to keep adding to that total. And if you just want to make a little donation to help, the details are below!

40th-birthday

If you would like to sponsor me with my #40ChallengesB440, to support Myeloma UK and help make myeloma history, please either

go to http://www.justgiving.com/Deb-Gascoyne

or

text ‘DEBG99 £X’ to 70070

e.g ‘DEBG99 £10′ if you want to donate £10

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