Well folks, I'm finally back!

Can you believe it is a year since I last wrote a blog for Susie's World (Hence the title of this blog).

The last time I posted was in December 2022 and I was full of good intentions for writing regular blogs; in fact, I had planned on these blogs being monthly during 2023. Unfortunately, life got in the way which you will all be able to relate to, especially those of you who are unpaid carers. Sadly, there has been an awful lot of stress, sadness and pressure not only for myself but for close family members too, and I've got to admit, I just wasn't in the best headspace to blog.

When I began blogging, it was during lockdown and I tried to keep my blogs as upbeat as possible and be truthful. Unfortunately, at the beginning of this year, I struggled to think of anything positive to write about and this has been the case for most of 2023.

Thankfully I have been receiving some emotional support whilst carrying out my caring roles for 3 members of my family who are all becoming more dependent upon me than ever. Then in September, my husband, who has always been a great support to me, was diagnosed with two quite serious health conditions within the space of 3 weeks, both of which came as a massive shock for all of the family.

As some of you already know, I have medical conditions which are progressive and incurable, so my physical health is deteriorating too however, there is always someone worse off than yourself and I try to remind myself of this and how lucky I am to be able to say that I have family and friends whether they be in good health or bad.

I am writing all of this to explain my absence to you but also want to say that I have often thought of the plights and struggles which lots of you are also facing on a daily basis, and I have wanted to blog for so long; well here I am!

When we are having a bad time coping with life's obstacles and troubles, it can be very difficult to look at the positives around you. I have only recently looked back at the past year and reminded myself of the positive times I have experienced. So let me tell you about some of them.

You may remember that I joined a creative writing group during lockdown named Writers Who Care which brought together a group of unpaid carers who were interested in exploring creative writing. As a result of our writing, a play was produced which was shown at the Northern Stage in April, which was just surreal! We also wrote individual monologues which were performed by local actors which again, was something which I never would have dreamt of happening prior to Covid. I am not one to blow my own trumpet, however I can honestly say that I am so proud of what our small writing group have achieved and cannot wait to see what is to come. Prior to the Pandemic, I had not done any writing since leaving school in 1980 so this was completely new to me but I am so pleased that I did it. As they say - Better Late Than Never!

Something else which I got involved with this year was working with Dr. Dan Taylor from the Open University alongside 14 other unpaid carers helping assist with research into explaining situations and difficulties unpaid carers living in Gateshead encounter.

We have had a number of meetings and workshops with Dan with the latest, getting involved in a banner-making workshop. This workshop was so interesting and everyone who attended took part in providing ideas and feedback. Hopefully, a banner will be created once funding has been received and this will be the first in the country which will be an amazing achievement. The banner will be put on display for members of the public to view but more importantly, for those people who can definitely make a difference with their policies and decision-making to see.

I have talked about caring for family members in the past but have never discussed their individual health problems. However, 2 years ago one family member was diagnosed with Stage 4A Ovarian Cancer and has been absolutely amazing with how she has coped both physically and mentally. As a result of this cancer diagnosis, I made contact with FACT (Fighting All Cancers Together) which is a local charity which supports cancer sufferers and their families, friends, and carers. This charity is amazing at providing support in so many ways, including emotional support, grocery deliveries, wig fitting and counselling - not only for adults but also for children and young people who have family members going through this terrible disease.

As a thank you to FACT for the support that my Mam and I have received, I decided to do some fundraising during the summer. At first, I was struggling with what I could do individually, especially with my mobility problems. Then one day something just popped into my head and I just went with it. What was it? I hear you asking, well can you believe it - I did a 48-hour Sponsored Silence! Yes, you heard right! Moi, staying silent for 2 days!! At first, everyone was totally amazed that I would even consider such a challenge; in fact they were the silent ones themselves which looking back now was quite funny. At first, I thought I might be able to raise £200 - £300; however, I was shocked at how many people sponsored me and how much they would donate to shut me up, haha! I was genuinely gobsmacked when the final total was announced - £1,500! So again, Better Late Than Never, although I have to say I don't think I have stayed silent since that time, haha!

That was way back during the summer so I have recently been thinking of how I could raise some more money for FACT. Well, I don't do things by halves as I have now set myself a new challenge - to carry out a Sponsored Slim! How this idea came about was because I am celebrating my 60th Birthday in January and I thought I could so something in connection with that. So, in my wisdom, I have decided to lose 60 half-pounds, which equates to 2 stones and 2 pounds. This time round it will be much harder for me as I am a comfort eater however, when I see the service users who attend the FACT coffee mornings and see those who are either currently going through cancer treatment or have already been through that journey I just find them all so inspirational as they always have a smile on their faces and we all have such a laugh together. In fact, these people have been absolute life-savers for myself and my Mam. So on 2nd January 2024, my 6-month challenge begins with me being weighed on a weekly basis in front of everyone at the coffee mornings. To be honest, I don't think I will need to look at my calorie intake, as each time I think about this challenge, I have to visit the bathroom!

Well folks, I think that is it for now as I am now onto page 3 of this document and here I was thinking, "What will I write about?"

The main message that I wanted to pass on is that even when situations with caring roles become quite difficult and you feel like you can't go on, try to remember that those feelings may not disappear completely, but there will be better days.

As for trying out new things, whether you are 16, 60, or even older never give up on your dreams and remember, Better Late Than Never!

I hope all of you have a happy and peaceful Christmas and that the year ahead brings all that you are wishing for and the best of everything.

See you soon.

Love Susie x