Category Archives: General

Where do I start and where do I go?

OK, so there’s been yet another big gap between posts. Sorry about that. When I last posted, things were really looking good. I had four job opportunities in the pipeline and I thought I’d finally figured out what path I wanted to take. Things were progressing and I was excited about it all!


Obviously the Universe had other ideas for me though. At the beginning of July I was completely side-swiped by a diagnosis of breast cancer. Oh, and not just breast cancer (which would have been bad enough), but metastatic breast cancer which had already seeded tumours in my liver. So yeah, that was a shock. It’s not nice being told that you probably won’t live to see your daughter go to secondary school (she’s only 2 this coming Boxing Day, to put that into some kind of perspective).

I probably should have been blogging throughout the experience, but to be honest, just getting through things a day at a time was hard enough. After 18 weeks of chemotherapy, and about to start my first batch of radiotherapy next week, I finally feel up to putting some words down. Words are powerful things y’know. Telling my family was heartbreaking and it broke me. When I was having to email people at work to let them know what was going on, it broke me. The words just made it all seem so horribly real. It’s still horribly real, but we’re learning to cope with it. We’re breathing in the amazing and trying not to dwell on the awful.

There have been some good points along the way, and you certainly learn to grab on to anything vaguely good. The tumours have responded to the chemotherapy, and although they’re still there, they’re smaller than they were, and small enough to allow them to attempt radiotherapy as well (which wasn’t the case at the start). My lymph nodes are now clear, at least for now. The spot on the original CT scan that was reported as a lung tumour, they now don’t think is a tumour at all. There’s a trial in Nottingham which is about to start looking at radiotherapy for liver metastases and apparently I’m a prime candidate to be enrolled on that.  I found out (through losing most of it) that having short hair kinda suits me (after 38 years of growing it). I’ll probably keep it short once it grows back. These are all Good Things.

So yeah. I’m still in the same job (but they’ve been great about everything). Moving at the moment just isn’t an option. I need something stable to hold on to. Suddenly work doesn’t seem so much of a priority though, so apologies to anyone I was meant to be collaborating with for suddenly dropping off the radar.

Interestingly, it has changed my opinion on genome sequencing which I touched on in my previous post. Now I want to know what’s locked away in my genome. Sadly I don’t meet the NHS criteria for genetic screening for breast cancer, and I figured I’d get into trouble if I did it in the lab myself (not that I wasn’t tempted, mind you….) If anyone wants a volunteer for genome sequencing, just give me a call.

Bring on the fight (and the science!). I’m not willing to give up on life just yet – it’s too breathtakingly beautiful to do that.

Time to jump?

Let me first start by clarifying something. I don’t like heights. At all. I certainly wouldn’t be the one jumping off the cliff (this picture isn’t me, it was taken by Andy Spearing who’s shared it under a CC By licence).


For the last four days I’ve been at the annual meeting for the European Society of Human Genetics and this morning attended a fascinating debate entitled “Should all geneticists have their genome sequenced?” I remain firmly on the side that maintains this should certainly not be compulsory. As was pointed out, we don’t make surgeons operate on themselves to get a better understanding on how their patients feel, so why should we feel it ethical or appropriate to insist that geneticists have their genomes analysed? However, this debate plus other presentations about the utility of personal genomic testing has made me think about it more than I have before. Would I do it? Should I do it? What implications would it have for my family? Would it benefit Scarlett or cause possible harm or distress for either me, her or other members of my family? Do I overthink it because of my training in genetics, or does it make me more critical and able to interpret any possible results? So many questions, with no easy answers!

Coming back to the picture and the title of this post. Is it time to jump into the arena of personalised genetics and genomics? At the moment I’m still hesitating at the top of the cliff (actually several metres back from the edge). However, attending this meeting has also made me consider other ways of jumping. I’ve spent the last 20 years training to be a geneticist, but am now seriously considering a major jump into something different, which is simultaneously both tremendously exciting and terrifying. How do I define myself? Is it time to redefine those expectations from myself and others? I think it’s time I got over my fear of heights and moved closer to that cliff edge. I’m still not convinced about getting my genome analysed though, so maybe the other jump has to come first.

Did you miss me?

Oh dear.  My plan for making more regular blog posts appears not to be working as well I’d hoped. I can’t believe how quickly time has gone since I last posted. In my defense (and it is only a weak defense), things have been somewhat busy. That’s my feeble excuse, and I’m sticking to it for now.

Since returning to work full-time in September, I’ve taught 3 modules on the campus MSc, one module for the distance-learners, completed my first module as a student on the MSc Blended and Online Education, as well as starting the Certificate in Leadership and Management from the ILM. I’ve also got 2 PhD students who’ve just submitted a thesis each, so I’ve been reading those as well. <breathe>

Yep, things have been hectic, but that seems to be normal these days! As well as fitting in all the work-related shenanigans, Scarlett is one already. How did that go so quickly? There are some days it’s really hard, but I just have to keep telling myself that it’ll be good for her to see a strong female role model. Not easy when she’s poorly and all I want to do is stay at home and cuddle her all day, but she’s got Daddy cuddles for that instead, so it’s certainly not like she misses out. Maybe I do, but she doesn’t.

Anyway, let’s not dwell on that. I really well try to update this more regularly, especially since the current module on the MSc BOE is looking at blogging! Tomorrow the University of Nottingham is hosting the next MELSIG event, so I really ought to go and run through my presentation one more time, just to be sure…

Ask a busy person…

I’ve been told by several different people on different occasions that I’m addicted to learning. Now I don’t think this is a bad thing, but I do acknowledge that sometimes it does lead to me taking on perhaps a bit more than I should. So, on the verge of going back to work after 7 months of maternity leave, as well as preparing for all my teaching that starts in September, what did I decide to do? A Masters course. Yes, the MSc in Blended and Online Education. Starting in September, which is possibly my busiest time of year. Oh, and I’ve also enrolled on the APPLE course (Academics’ and Administrators’ Professional, Personal and Leadership Experience), which also starts at the same time.

So not only do I have to adjust to going back to work after being at home with Scarlett, I also have to get to grips with two new programmes whilst teaching 3 modules in Semester 1.

Ah well, you know what they say – if you want something doing, ask a busy person… :-)

A change of direction?

Many things have changed in the last few months, most notably the birth of our daughter on Boxing Day 2013. As a result of being off on maternity leave, I’ve been able to spend some time thinking and acting on some of the things that I didn’t feel I had the time for when I was at work every day. Obviously this thinking and doing is also being done around the demands of a small child, so I’m fitting it in at odd times of the day and in small chunks; I like to think it’s developing my time management and multi-tasking Map iconskills!

So what are the changes? Well, I’m rethinking my career path and planning some professional development to help me get to where I want to be – something that was well overdue. As part of that I’m also using the time to complete some open courses (more on that later) as well as doing an overhaul on my website. I’ve also developed an obsession with making reusable nappies, but I’m aiming to keep that off this blog (maybe I’ll do a separate one for that!)

For now, will stay the same, at least until I’ve got to grips with WordPress and making it look the way it does in my head. This blog will hopefully be more productive than my last attempt though, so be prepared for some brain dumps here.