If Carlsberg made jobs….

I didn’t plan on becoming a teacher. By my own admission it’s something I fell into, and boy am I happy I did! After my degree, I wanted to stay at university for another year for a few reasons, 1) Because I didn’t want to get a job yet, 2) Because I forgot to apply for a job (blame the Vodka Redbull), 3) I didn’t want to grow up!

I had tried a few summer internships focused on PR and marketing. I soon discovered that I didn’t really give a s**t over whether the latest ‘D list’ celebrity (or the infamous Darius, in this case!), was appearing in the ‘right’ magazine. As grateful as I was for the opportunities, I felt no sense of achievement or purpose in what I was doing and knew I didn’t want to pursue it further. What I really enjoyed was blaghing my way on a tennis court, alongside Mark Gillet, pretending I knew how to teach mini tennis, to the ever growing junior camp at Woking LTC. It never felt like work – it was fun, the children loved it, I got a buzz from it and I was never bored! 

It was this and some good funding that led to me to justifying an extra year at uni to train as an IT teacher. 

I managed to talk my way onto a PGCE in ICT – having studied Business Economics. I actually think I was the only girl that applied for this ‘new’ course and persuaded the tutor that I’d teach myself the IT content. As I rocked up in Exeter on my first day in a skirt that was considerable too short, I was ushered by one of the tutors past the IT training room, into the PE room because apparently I didn’t look like an ICT teacher – “what on earth are they suppose to look like I laughed to myself?!”

As a new teaching cohort that day we were greeted by the late, great, Ted Wragg, who was in his last year as Educational Director in Exeter. I was blown away by his passion for changing education, for training a generation of teachers to look at each student with warmth and compassion – he was witty, inspirational and talked about the privilege we had bestowed upon us to do something that matters. That day I think I caught the teaching bug and I haven’t been able to shake it! 

After my training year, as a newly qualified teacher I was blessed with getting a job in the inspirational setting of an outstanding school with leaders that I truly believe would put most FTSE 100 CEO’s to shame. 

In fact, A recent trainee who came out of the city, said to me once that in all the time she was working in the city, you hear and see people talking about excellent leadership, writing books about it – and yet it was only when she came into teaching did she actually see it in practice! 

It was these leaders and colleagues, many of whom I still work with today, that nurtured my passion and fire for education so well for which I’m grateful.  

I’m aware that teaching gets bad press – and yes I’m fully aware of the challenge that some schools present – I’ve worked in them. However when do people write stories about the positives – the other side, the things that might not make a headline, but makes all the difference to someone’s life?

Tell me another job where you get instant feedback from your audience, where you laugh hysterically with colleagues and students over cake sales, hilarious banter, answering impossibly hard questions or figuring out the meaning of life! You cry when the student that you thought hated you, sends you the most beautiful card of thanks, or you know you have ‘got through’ when no one else could. When you get a student who hates school, to finally attend, or you provide the stability, structure and love to kids when you know it doesn’t exist elsewhere. What other jobs can you do that you know that what you do on a daily basis shapes lives, opens doors, engages minds and inspires dreams. It’s hard work, and like in all jobs you have good days and a few bad….but unlike most jobs, you get out of bed every day knowing that what you do matters – and you laugh, you really laugh. 

Teaching is a community – if you are a teacher you are part of a ‘club’ – everyone looks after each other and there is this quiet mutual respect that extends across the ‘teaching world’ even when you meet other teachers at parties, in the gym or on holiday! 

I have never felt this more than when being diagnosed with Bowel cancer. Thankfully I’ve only ever seen the other side of it before – you hear about someone’s illness, the community rally’s round, cards, flowers, letters, prayers, support – but you hope you don’t have to be on the receiving end. When you are – my God it’s incredible. In the dark days when you look to your ‘knights’, you find yourself reading cards and messages from colleagues sending love and prayers, or running cake baking competitions! I honestly don’t know how I’d be so upbeat about my illness if it wasn’t for the outpouring of love from my friends and family but also the teaching community that I’m so proud to be part of. Thank you. 

Let’s talk about poo!
The teacher in me, is always on a mission to ‘make people learn’! If you look at this part of my blog as a lesson it would be entitled ‘let’s talk about poo’ and my learning outcomes are that you understand the key symptoms and that you are ‘never too young’!

I’ve started learning so much about Bowel cancer – especially in young people, and I think as a nation we are very much behind in terms of mind set, myths and attitudes towards this cancer. It was only when we started talking about lumps in our breasts and balls did the awareness and survival of these cancers increase.

A few weeks ago I met with Deborah Alsina, CEO at Bowel cancer UK to talk about supporting their never too young campaign. https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/campaigning/never-too-young/

Deborah and the team are passionate about working with researchers, Doctors, policy makers and the NHS, to bring about change to ensure that people are diagnosed earlier in the disease and therefore have with much proved outcomes. 

“More than nine out of 10 people diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer survive five years or more

For stage 2 bowel cancer that figure is eight in 10

For stage 3 six out of 10

And for stage 4 less than one in 10 people survive five years or more” Bowel cancer Uk

I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer – this is because it had spread to my nodes and that is why I’m now undergoing 6 months of chemotherapy and am in fact a walking human cocktail! (More on this next blog!). If I had been diagnosed at an early stage 1 or even 2, my treatment would have only included the surgery and I would have most likely avoided the current process I’m undertaking of slowly poisoning myself! 

“Isn’t that an old man’s disease?!” Ok let’s put this in perspective. Do I look old nowadays?!…..and no, it’s more common than you think and it’s only getting worse! 

“More than 2,500 people under 50 are diagnosed in the UK each year of the 41,000 total and yet recent surveys say that 9/10 people diagnosed under 50 didn’t know the symptoms they were having could be related to Bowel cancer. 

There has been a 45 per cent rise in the number of under 50s diagnosed with the disease in the past 10 years.

And three out of five people diagnosed under the age of 50 will be diagnosed when the cancer is already in the later stages of disease” Bowel Cancer Uk

Bowel cancer can present in a variety of different ways. For me, I started to go to the poo at lot – about 5/6 times per day. I had cramps and an urgency. I also started to lose weight – I lost about half a stone in 4 months. The scariest was that I started to bleed – a mix of fresh blood (like hemmaroids), on the stool, in the stool, you name it – all different ways and amounts! This was intermittent for over 6 months but progressively got worse. When my blood tests and stool samples came back ‘normal’, I started taking photographs so I could explain more easily what was happening – do the same if you have concerns (just make sure you delete them before you give anyone your phone to flick through!).  

The main symptoms of Bowel cancer are:

Please listen to your body and don’t put off that Doctors visit if you have any concerns! 

So to give you a mini update on how I’m doing…..
Besides from learning loads about Bowel cancer I’ve been doing some pretty ‘normal things’. My husband and I managed a week away in Dubai which did what we needed it to! Relaxation, good food and sunshine! I didn’t even freak out on the plane as it suddenly seemed safe in comparison to my cancer prognosis! 

I had a port fitted and started my first round of chemo which is a story in itself for next time! – and I even made it to my daughters school to read with her class for the first time ever! Upon surprising my daughter, she was so overwhelmed by seeing me, she proceeded to punch me in my scar, nearly wet herself and poked herself in the eye with her pencil shouting ‘my mummy has come into school, my mummy is actually here!’

And it’s moments like that which is why I continue to fight this with a positive mindset and a smile on my face!….x

Ps. If you are interested in joining ‘probably the best profession in the world’ then do get in touch with my friends at Teach SouthEast where I know you will fall in love with teaching and receive world class training from a great bunch of people x




  1. Hey Debbie
    I’ve been reading your blogs for a few weeks since my daughter started attending your mum’s gymnastics club (another great teacher)… We used to go to school together, then I was Olivia Murray.
    You have always been such an inspirational and lovely person and you are facing this with the same determined, positive attitude you’ve always had. I can still learn so much from you!
    One day at a time, is all you need to think about, then the next six months will fly by. By the way, don’t even think about the stats, after all, you were never supposed to have this!
    Lots of love xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A truly honest blog. You don’t see many people writing straight from the heart for both teaching and the difficulties you’re facing. I am training to become a teacher myself. Keep posting, they are reaching me all the way in Vietnam and helping so many people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi, just read your story in the Sun. Hope Chemo is going ok for you and not too many side effects! I’ve just started my first round and so far it’s not too bad.
    I’m 36, no previous health problems, fit and active (do the Insanity program etc) and am partial to a bit of salad. I went to my GP with stomach pains that had been off/on for a couple of months. Luckily he wanted to be sure it wasn’t anything serious and got my poo tested. That showed that there was some inflammation in the bowel and 2 MRIs and a CT scan later, much to everyone’s surprise as stomach pain was my only symptom, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer.
    It really is indiscriminate and it’s great all that you are doing to make more younger people aware of the danger signs. All the best for your chemo and stay strong!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry to hear you are on the same journey as me but thanks for the support and raising awareness. Are you on FOLFOX or a different regime? I’ve just done round 2 and my main side effect (beyond the obvious tiredness etc!) is crazy neuropathy! Never been so scared of the cold – breathing, cramping – you name it! I think if you are on Oxy you need to be flown to a hot country! Glad you are doing ok x


      • Ha yeah I’ve been opening the fridge with oven gloves for the last week or so! I’m on FOLFIRINOX for 3 months. Fortunately there is a surgical route to disease free survival as it has spread to my liver and the wall of my abdomen so I really hope chemo does its job and then the surgery will clear up the mess. My primary tumour was removed in Jan by emergency resection as it was totally blocking the bowel and amazingly was done without the need for a stoma. Just got to keep taking each day as it comes and focus on the next appointment knowing that each action is progressively smashing it to bits. Thanks for making me aware of the Never Too Young campaign…will get myself involved! And yes, relocation to the Bahamas I think should be a standard part of the treatment, all inclusive of course.

        Liked by 1 person

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