top of page

Flipping Thoughts & Miranda Galloping


A few days after my first surgery in August 2020, we went to the seaside – up to the North Yorkshire coast. I was waiting for the results of that and it was an anxious time. It’s a place we visit quite often and I always feel better when I go and so it felt like the obvious place to go during that time.


I remember walking along the tops of the cliffs, looking down at the beach that I know so well. A place that we often walk along with my family and our little dog and a place that brings back lots of memories.One of my favourite things is to watch the sea – especially when the tide is coming in and the waves crash along the sea wall. Then dark thoughts hit me like one of the waves, taking my breath away - what if the biopsy showed that I had melanoma? What would a second surgery be like? Was it likely that if it was cancer it had spread? What if I would never get the chance to visit this beach again and see this view? It was the final question that hit me the hardest. I told my husband and son to walk ahead, making an excuse that I wanted to take photographs but in reality, it was to stop them from seeing me breathless and tearful.


I phoned my parents, I had to speak to someone. They were so understanding and gave me advice that has become my mantra, “Take it all a day at a time” and try not to think about what might happen until results are in and a plan is in place. It’s advice I now give to others, but I know that it is so incredibly difficult. Distraction is not easy and sometimes those thoughts come to the surface when you least expect them - you can do all the colouring-in, reading, baking, walking you like but if those thoughts still have a way of coming up to the surface and you feel like you are drowning. Tying to suppress these thoughts takes a lot of energy. These days I try not to suppress them, but instead let the thoughts come and then try and deal with them, I try to ‘flip’ them.... I’ll explain what I mean by this later.


We’ll leave the North Yorkshire coast and fast forward to Christmas of that year. I had the results not only of my first surgery by that point but also the second one too – my Wide Local Excision and my Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy. Those surgeries had confirmed that I had Stage 3 Melanoma – it had spread into the nearest lymph node under my arm. I was to start twelve months of adjuvant therapy the day after Boxing Day. I told my family that 2020 was going to be extra sparkly (apparently, I say that every year) and even though restrictions were in place due to the pandemic, even though I had only recently been diagnosed we were going to make the best of it (the best of it turned out to be sitting under a gazebo in the freezing cold under blankets!) I knew that from Boxing Day I would be classed as Extremely Clinically Vulnerable as my treatment would start.


The Christmas trees were put up early that year - remember I wanted things extra sparkly. Our son, who was only just twelve, helped me decorate the tree. It was the usual routine: my husband carrying the heavy boxes of decorations and helping put on the lights (always the worst and most frustrating thing), Christmas tunes playing in the background and our little dog stealing the baubles and playing with them. As we hung decorations on the tree it hit me again: what if this was the last time I did this? What if this was my last Christmas? I managed to hold back the tears and over-compensated by singing the Christmas songs even louder - that must have been particularly painful for my son and husband as my singing is terrible and sometimes it makes our dog howl at the same time.


A while later I spoke to my mum about how difficult putting up the tree had been. She told me about my Grandma and what she used to say every year when she put up their Christmas tree. My Grandma had been widowed in her late 30s. My Grandad had died of T.B when he was only 42. My mum was only two years old and my Auntie was seven. Every year my Grandma decorated the tree and like my mum and I this was an important tradition and one she took a great deal of pride in. My Grandma would always say something like “Thank you we can decorate our tree this year” or “Thank you for another year.” My mum said on reflection, it was my Grandma’s way of saying that she was grateful for the now, grateful that they were able to do this because she knew first hand that you can’t always guarantee it. That we can't take anything for granted - none of us can. It’s a morbid thought in some ways, but for me it really helped. It made me realise that rather than worrying about what could happen, I should try to embrace the here and now.


For the last two years when I have been putting up the Christmas tree, I have still had those thoughts – what if this is the last one? But now when those words come into my mind I think of my Grandma and I quietly say the words to myself, “Thank you I am here this Christmas to do this." It really helps and I have learnt to live more in the moment. I call this ‘flipping” – a way of flipping those thoughts in my head - from me worrying about the “what ifs” to being thankful that I am here now. It’s not always easy, sometimes it’s not possible to do. During my recent hospital stays if someone had suggested that I “flip my thoughts" I would have probably told them to “Flip off”…


So, back to that beautiful beach in North Yorkshire. I have been back many times since 2020 and I have walked on that beach again, I’ve paddled in the freezing sea, I’ve looked in rock pools, I’ve played fetch with our dog and when my legs and have allowed I have ‘Miranda Galloped’* on the sand (who cares if people stare!) I’m not saying every time I have managed to “flip” my darker thoughts, but more often than not when I get onto that beach, see that view and think “Thank you I am here today to enjoy this” and then hopefully go on to eat an ice cream (and yes, one with strawberry sauce and a flake.)


If you don’t know what “Miranda Galloping” is then please see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmKtC8_4_wM – it’s from the BBC sitcom ‘Miranda’ and it always makes me feel better!

7 Comments


ykee7
Sep 05, 2023

Even though it’s David with Stage 4, this resonates on so many levels. Firstly the thank you - we say it every day and sing, ‘Let the Sunshine in’. Christmas and New Year’s Eve we’re like you - alongside ‘I wonder how things will be this time next year, we say thank you and express our gratitude. Secondly the situation with your mum, though I was 18 months when my dad died. Thirdly, David never thought he’d see Filey again. Those fish and chips are still the best he says he’s ever tasted; that was nearly 6 1/2 years ago! I’ll show him how to Miranda Gallop next time we go x

Like
charlottekilleya
Sep 06, 2023
Replying to

Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I hope David is doing ok at the moment. It really helps knowing that other people have similar experiences and feelings. Oh Filey Fish and Chips are amazing and the beach really is one of my very favourites - hope you manage to get back there x

Like

andrew.turner69
Aug 03, 2023

Fantastic blog, I can relate totally to many of your comments, I too had the same thoughts over last Christmas and think this year I’ll use you Grandma’s wise tip! ❤️

Like
charlottekilleya
Sep 06, 2023
Replying to

Thanks so much, hope you are doing ok. My Grandma was so wise in so and it's so nice to think someone else will be thinking about her advice this Christmas! x

Like

sophiajamie78
Jul 31, 2023

Beautifully written Charlotte. Honest, poignant and raw. Thinking of you and am inspired by your writing and everyday living ♥️

Like
charlottekilleya
Sep 06, 2023
Replying to

Thank you so much for this, I really appreciate your kind words x

Like

Gilli Fowler
Gilli Fowler
Jul 18, 2023

So glad you're doing this Charlotte. Thank you

Like
bottom of page