Saturday, 31 December 2016

Raising Bowel Cancer Awareness

To see how to buy the Lives & Times book click here.

It wasn’t until I published the first book, Beating Bowel Cancer, in 2012 that I realised just how important it is to help raise awareness about bowel cancer. Initially I thought the job of the book was to raise funds for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. After a few weeks when the sales started to drop off I was left feeling a little flat, as I wondered what next? The charity were amazing, and they pointed out that as well as raising money, the book was also doing a great job about raising awareness. The penny then dropped! Since then I try do to as much as I can to help raise bowel cancer awareness.
I have to be totally honest that until Mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer in April 2012 I knew precious little about bowel cancer. Over the last 4 years I have got to know a lot more about the disease, and it has become clear how important it is to raise the awareness of this disease. Sadly Mum passed away on August 29th, 2016. The information is readily available out there but how many people actually actively seek it or are even aware of it? The Beating Bowel Cancer charity which I am supporting has excellent information on its website just click here, and it is from their website that I have sourced my facts. 

The basic facts are that bowel cancer is the 2nd biggest cancer killer in the UK, and 41,000 people are diagnosed with it each year, and it claims 16,000 lives. If diagnosed early 90% of cases can be treated successfully. Whilst it is more common to affect people over 50, it is increasingly affecting younger people.

The symptoms can include a persistent change in bowel habit, bleeding from the bottom, abdominal pain, a lump in your tummy, and unexplained weight loss and tiredness.

Risk factors include a high intake of saturated fats, processed or red meat. Drinking more than 4 units of alcohol per day, being overweight, and having an immediate relative with bowel cancer all could increase the chances of being affected by it.

To reduce the risk eat or healthy diet with plenty of fruit, regular exercise to reduce weight, cut down on alcohol, and be aware of any change in bowel habits. My Mum recognised a change in her bowel habit and when she was sent to have an endoscopy the bowel cancer was discovered.

In November 2015 I published Lives & Times, of which all the proceeds I receive are donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. The amount raised so far stands at over £3250. The idea of photographing people for it was not just about trying to generate more sales. By hopefully reaching a wider audience it will help spread the message about bowel cancer. The people who feature in the book gave up their time and services for free, and many of them have also helped to promote the book, thereby spreading the message about bowel cancer as far and wide as is possible. Some of these people such as Ben Richards have beaten the illness, whilst others like Freya North, Matthew Wright and Christopher Biggins have lost people to it. The message is clear, that by raising bowel cancer awareness, more people can be detected early and lives can be saved.
By raising awareness about bowel cancer we can share the message that bowel cancer, bums and poo are nothing to be embarrassed about, and learning the symptoms and acting on them could save lives.
If just one person gets checked out and has their life saved as a result of reading the Beating Bowel Cancer or Lives & Times books, or any other bowel cancer literature / raising awareness scheme then the efforts become so worthwhile.
When you go to the loo don’t forget to check your poo!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

MP Nadine Dorries part of the Lives & Times bowel cancer charity book

When I began writing Lives & Times I tried contacting a few of the local politicians in Berkshire where I live. I was somewhat disappointed when I didn't get one single reply, and this included my own Reading East MP Rob Wilson and my Mum's Maidenhead MP none other than Theresa May... So I gave up on the idea of including MPs in the book. However this was to change when I came into contact with Nadine Dorries, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Mid Bedfordshire. Through an exchange of messages on Twitter I found out that she had bought my first book Beating Bowel Cancer. With nothing to lose I asked Nadine if she would be in the new book and I was delighted when she agreed. Nadine had in fact lost a close friend to bowel cancer, so she was keen to support the book project.

The chapter in the book describes exactly what happened. It was an amazing experience that was very typical of many in the book. I thought that Nadine would meet me at her constituency office, but instead I was invited up to the Houses of Parliament and I met her on outside terrace that overlooks the River Thames. Over the course of an hour I went through tunnels under Parliament Square, had tea with Nadine and ended up being given a grilling by an armed police officer. It's all in the book!

Nadine is of course also a very successful author in her own right. I look on in envy at her wonderfully high rankings on the Amazon best sellers list, and I can only dream for such success. It would be nice to borrow just a few of her avid readers for Lives & Times. Her support throughout has been brilliant and it was fantastic meeting Nadine.

My mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012 ans in spite of successful surgery to remove the tumour she went on to suffer from secondary cancer from the bowel in her lungs and brain. She went through a number of operations and endured each treatment without complaint. She fought with courage and great dignity for 4 years, but sadly she finally lost her battle with bowel cancer on August 29th. I am carrying on with my fundraising and raising bowel cancer awareness.

Please support the book. To see how you can buy a copy click here. ALL proceeds raised are donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Olympic gold medalist Dame Katherine Grainger features in bowel cancer fundraising book

Five-time Olympic medalist Dame Katherine Grainger has been a big supporter of the book. Her historic silver medal at Rio 2016 makes her Britain's most successful ever female Olympian. I sent a copy of Lives & Times to Katherine earlier in the year, and she sent me this great photo of herself in GB attire holding the book. Fortunately she was also very complimentary about it. When I first contacted Katherine about being in the book she was in the process of deciding whether or not to return to rowing and aim for Rio 2016. She was honest enough to say at that time she wouldn't be able to be in the book. As things transpired the publication date ended up being a year later that I originally planned due to the success of getting people to be in the book. So I contacted Katherine once again and with the time factor not being so critical she happily agreed to be in the book.

We arranged to do the photo for the book during the 2015 Henley Royal Regatta, but things didn't quite go to plan. Going into the final day on the Sunday I still hadn't been given any arrangements from Katherine, who understandably was in great demand during the regatta, so I was beginning to think it wasn't meant to be. Then right at the end of the afternoon I spotted Katherine watching the prize giving presentations, and it was one of those moments which you just have to go for, so I went and introduced myself to her. Those who know me, will know that this is the least typical behaviour you would normally expect from me. Katherine couldn't have been nicer and we had a nice chat and were able to take a photo of her by the river. She also posed for a photo with the Beating Bowel Cancer tie.

Just before the book was published in November, Katherine sent me a video message with a message for the book. It was an idea I'd had to get some of the people in the book to record a short video to help with the promotion. Once again Katherine was a great sport.

It was a devastating blow when Mum lost her four and half year battle with bowel bowel cancer at the end of August. She peacefully passed away with me, my brother and sister at her bedside. She was brave, courageous and dignified throughout the long fight. I knew pretty much straight away that I would not be stopping my fundraising and Lives & Times is now a book dedicated to the memory of my wonderful mother. Please support this book as every sale counts both in raising money and raising awareness about bowel cancer. The book, and the recently produced screen prints, have so far raised over £3000 for Beating Bowel Cancer. I am so proud that Mum got to see the finished book.

Over the course of 18 months I met and photographed people from all walks of life to form the chapters of Lives & Times. Every single person taking part has given up their own time to do it and all funds raised go to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. As well as Gabby, others included are, Sir Steve Redgrave, Katherine Grainger, Jonathan Agnew, Nadine Dorries, Lorraine Kelly, Christopher Biggins, Matthew Wright, Freya North, Gail Porter, Alan Davies, Shaun Keaveny, Carrie Grant, Mike Read, Status Quo, The Stranglers, The Alarm, Clare Grogan and many others.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Lives & Times Meets Antonia Mariconda for Bowel Cancer Fundraising Book

It was during the summer of 2015 that I spent an amazing evening in the swanky W Hotel off Leicester Square meeting and photographing Antonia Mariconda @CosmedicCoach for the Lives & Times bowel cancer fundraising book. Antonia was there to help launch a new app called the Beauty Tracker designed to help patients buy cosmetic surgery treatments safely. This was surely one of the most unexpected photos in the book for me, in so much as I think I could have lived to be 100 and never gone to any event like this without having done the book. A lovely champagne reception and I was looked after very well by Antonia. I had linked up with her on social media, and she was keen to be involved with the book. I have learnt an awful lot from her in the positive ways to use social media and networking to promote and sell the book. 

We were also photographed by professional photographer Joe Alvarez who was covering the event. It's not often that I have been photographed in such a way if ever! I also met Doctor Hilary Jones, who was a really nice man. In fact it was a lovely crowd there.

I have been supporting Beating Bowel Cancer since 2012, as it was then that my mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer. In September 2012 she had a section of her bowel removed and then at the start of 2013 she underwent two further operations on her lungs where she had a cancerous nodule ,which was a secondary bowel cancer. Mum remained in remission for about 18 months, but unfortunately in November 2014 another cancerous nodule appeared on her left lung. She underwent surgery in February 2015 which was successful, and made a fantastic recovery. Unfortunately her October CT scan revealed that the cancer had once again come back on her left lung and more bad news followed in November following a seizure we found out that the cancer had spread to her brain. Mum had "CyberKnife" treatment in January 2016 for the brain cancer. Two months later she had more lung surgery, this time to remove the lower lob of her left lung where the cancer kept returning to. Sadly the treatment on the brain cancer was only partially successful, and a seizure in June 2016 left her virtually paralysed down her her right side and severely affected her speech. Following the seizure she spent almost 6 weeks in hospital where we had the devastating news that her condition became terminal. She moved into a nursing home for end of life palliative care where she spent the last month of her life. The staff there were brilliant and she got the 24/7 care that she needed. She passed away peacefully on August 29th, 2016 a week after celebrating her 80th birthday,

I would like to thank Antonia for her continued support. She was really keen to do something for Mum when she found out about her terminal condition, but sadly Mum passed away before this could happen.

Lives & Times has now raised over £3250 for Beating Bowel Cancer. All proceeds are donated to the charity so please support the book and the recent stunning screen print both of which are available on my website.

Lives & Times Bowel Cancer Fundraising Book Sale Now On...

The Lives &Times book sale is now on until January 2nd. Prices of both the paperback and hardback editions of the book have been reduced on my website. All proceeds raised from sales of the book are donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity, which is the charity I have been supporting since my mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012. Sadly Mum lost her 4 year battle with this awful illness on August 29th, but this has only served to make me more determined to continue with the fundraising and to help raise awareness about bowel cancer.

It was the first Christmas without Mum, and having lost Dad in 2009 it was a complete change and very different to not have parents around at my favourite time of the year. However I have to say that I had a lovely time with friends and family. Everything got changed at the 11th hour as one of the dogs was diagnosed with cancer the week before Christmas. So the one down side was not being able to go for Christmas lunch with my sister and her family. Of course it was not a case of forgetting about Mum, but more to remember those happy festive moments with a fond smile. Her hopeless attempts at lighting the Christmas pudding each year, the useless Christmas crackers she had an amazing ability to find, how could she miscalculate the amount of roast potatoes and the list could go on and on... She was an amazing lady, and is hugely missed. But I know that I am going to be ok and will try to make her and dad proud in whatever I do...

The new fundraising book is underway and work will continue on it during 2017, but please continue to support Lives & Times, which is a heartwarming and inspirational read. Yes it mentions bowel cancer, but focuses very much on the amazing experiences I had meeting and photographing so many wonderful people.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

RIP Rick Parfitt from Status Quo

It was with great sadness today that I learned of the passing of Rick Parfitt from Status Quo. Lives & Times was published in November, 2015 and sadly during 2016 three people featured in the book have since passed away. My mother, the inspiration behind the book, lost her 4 year battle with bowel cancer in August. In September the wonderful Billy Franks died quite suddenly, and now on Christmas Eve, Rick Parfitt has also been taken.

I didn't get to meet Status Quo in person when I photographed them. However it was a fantastic experience as their management organised a photo pass for me for The Frantic Four gig at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2014. They were the first "celebs" I'd approached for the book and had come back with an immediate yes. I had the first three songs in the photo pit by the stage and it was without doubt the most nervous I was for any of the photos I did for the book. I took over 200 photos and here are acouple of Rick in his classic poses.

I can remember Rick catching my eye as I was I was snapping away gesturing me to photograph bass player Alan Lancaster. I can only speculate as to why he did this, but maybe he wanted to make sure that Alan and John, who had rejoined the band for the tour, were given as much attention as himself and Francis. A very unselfish attitude and that of a true gent... The result of this small gesture by Rick was that I turned towards Alan who was playing on the other end of the stage and took what I still consider to be one of the best photos in the book.

Today is a day when thoughts are naturally with Rick's family, friends and his fellow band members past and present. One of the best rhythm guitarists we have known has been lost, but has left a legacy that will not be forgotten.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Merry Christmas From Bowel Cancer Fundraising

A Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the website. During 2016 the amount raised for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity has gone past £3000 and I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who has supported me and bought something. As well as friends and family, particular thanks is given to the bowel cancer community who have bought the book in large numbers. Another set of people I must also give special thanks to is fans of my favourite band, The Alarm, who have been incredibly supportive towards both me and the book. A special thanks to, Alarm fan, Tina Atkins who helped me sell the book at the Beating Bowel Cancer Patient Day in April. We had never met before, but she very kindly came along to help. These acts of kindness by people, of which there have been many, have combined to make the last few years incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, even in the face of Mum's health deteriorating.

Initially the website was set up to sell the Lives & Times fundraising book, and the paperback and hardback editions have sold well throughout the year. In the summer, Reigate artist, Adam Green produced a limited edition of 25 silk screen prints. These are still available on the website, and with every penny being donated to Beating Bowel Cancer from the selling price, they have made a great addition to the fundraising contributing about £1000 to the total raised so far.

Lives & Time Screen Print

Sadly 2016 saw my mother lose her 4 year battle with bowel cancer. She fought with great courage and dignity throughout and passed away peacefully on August 29th a week after celebrating her 80th birthday. I am sure Christmas will be a time of much happiness as it always has been in our family, though of course not without some sadness this time around, the first one without Mum.

Mum 22/08/1936 to 29/09/2016

2017 is going to see me continue work on the new fundraising book. No title yet and no completion date, but it is going to be based on similar lines to Lives & Times. With that in mind I feel the ending of this year is now the right time to scale down the promotion of Lives & Times and concentrate on the new book. I will continue to post new blogs here as and when there is something to say. But in the main the focus for 2017 is very much going to be one of looking forwards for me. This means that on both Facebook and Twitter I am going to have to come up with other things to say now! 😊

2016, sadly, also saw the passing of another person I photographed for Lives & Times. Singer and songwriter, Billy Franks, passed away in September. A wonderful musician, but more importantly a very kind and lovely man. 

Billy Franks at The Union Chapel, 2014

Please take a look at the shop on the website. I am currently offering free postage on all items, and I have reduced the price of Lives & Times as well. All proceeds raised from sales of everything are donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Lives & Times Christmas Offer

Good news for anyone wanting to support the Lives & Times bowel cancer fundraising book and also the artwork and printed mug that are for sale on my website. Firstly the price of the Lives & Times book has been reduced over the Christmas and New Year period. The hardback now sells for £24.99 and the paperback is selling for £9.99. The second piece of good news for people buying stuff from the website in the UK is that everything now has free shipping! No nasty hidden charges when you come to checkout. So there never has been a better time to support my fundraising. 100% of the proceeds raised from sales on the website are donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity.

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK claiming 16,000 lives each year. Yet if detected early it is very treatable with a survival rate of over 90%. There is still so much work to do in raising awareness about this awful illness. Even if you are not interested in purchasing the book please take a look at the Beating Bowel Cancer website as it just might save your life..

My mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012, and she had a successful operation to remove the tumour from her bowel. Over the next 4 years she had further operations to remove secondary cancerous nodules from her lungs. On November 27th 2015, the very day that I published Lives & Times, Mum had a seizure, which was when it was discovered that the cancer had also spread to her brain. She underwent cyberknife treatment, but one of the two lesions on her brain did not respond and her condition slowly deteriorated. She fought long and hard with courage and dignity, but sadly she peacefully passed away on August 29th, 2016. The fundraising continues and all support is greatly appreciated. Please have a look on the website.

Over the course of 18 months I met and photographed people from all walks of life to form the chapters of Lives & Times. The book features a collection of portrait photographs of various people, and anecdotal stories about the photos. All proceeds are donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. Every single person taking part in this book has given up their own time to do it and all funds raised go to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. Among those included are Katherine Grainger CBE, Sir Steve Redgrave, Gabby Logan, Jonathan Agnew, Nadine Dorries, Lorraine Kelly, Christopher Biggins, Matthew Wright, Freya North, Gail Porter, Alan Davies, Shaun Keaveny, Mike Read, Status Quo, The Stranglers, The Alarm, Clare Grogan, and many others.