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  • Writer's pictureGem

Welcome back!?..Canines, Kid and Cancer.

Updated: Jul 9, 2023

It's been a hell of a year, or two. Welcome to my way of playing catch up!

I guess I'll start from the top, (and go as quickly as possible) to bring you up to the now. Writing and journaling has helped me massively to process things lately, I've been wanting to get more into blogging for a long time and who knows, sharing my recent hectic experiences may help not only myself, but some other people too and that would be amazing.

There is no way of fitting everything from the last couple of years into one blog post but as I try to explain this absolute shitstorm, I'll maybe develop further on certain points in other blogs for those who are interested!

Mostly my life has become focused on battling an aggressive and rare cancer,

trying to recover from surgery and radiotherapy while still undergoing treatment,

looking after my physical and mental health,

a two year old, overly sassy human,

three dogs, my family,

an invisible disability,

as well as losing my business and trying to wrap my head around all of that.

So, here we go!


Onyx, my best friend, soul dog, needy hairy bastid - 2014 joined us at 5 months old.

Honey, giant house cat, snob, gentle loving beaut girl when she wants to be. Is always on lead and occasionally muzzled due to her tough start in life - 2016 joined us approx 1 or 2 years old..

Iggy, tiny, insane, owns this house, born with deformities, gives zero F's. Might pee anywhere just to be mean - 2016 joined us approx 7 months old.

2016 - Hiker Hounds is Born.

Alongside two other jobs, I started dog walking and then quickly making my own leads after finding others were not quite passing the endurance test I was putting them through. I also wanted to bring in my creative side after studying at the Art College, University of Ulster. For more in depth info on how HH started check out:

After a few amazing years of full time dog walking and making canine apparel I married my human best friend ( barf I Know, but we've been together from aged 17 ) in 2019 then we bought our first house in Ballygowan where I set up my work studio. As we moved during Covid and lockdown the dog walking side of HH sadly reduced but the silver lining was, I spent many, many, many hours in my studio either sewing, making or painting!

Fiadh (Kid)

In May 2022 we were blessed with our lil baby human demon. As a very sleep deprived shell of a human, loving newborn life... I kept working when I could, as other self-employed mums will relate to!

Fiadh from the get go has been stubborn, determined, beautiful and funny.

I hated anyone that told me the usual lines,

'Sleep when the baby sleeps' (aye good one),

'Enjoy every moment, these times go by so quickly.'

As a shattered and stressed person I just couldn't take this in, I don't think many first time mums truthfully do though, not all of the time anyway.

After what came next, I wish so much I had been able to relax more into new motherhood and not be so stressed or worried about work.

Looking back at photos of Fiadh strapped onto me while walking the dogs around forest parks, they really were some of the best times of my life. I've been a big lover of the Mournes for a long time or just generally being out in nature, so doing that with my new, tiny little person and my dogs, was just bliss.

Long story short, I truly believe stress can be detrimental to our physical health just as much as our mental health. I love our lil firecracker and wouldn't change her for the world - spending time with her in these early years is so important, but it really does take a village - You cannot pour from an empty cup and every parent needs a break and some 'me time'.


(when shit hit the fan)

My previous paragraph hopefully explains why I easily ignored every sign my body was sending me that something was wrong. I've always been active, busy and a hard worker, more so when I felt driven and passionate about my own business.

You also get a lot of post partum symptoms which made it even easier to pass things off and ignore them.

In March 2022 I went into hospital in agony, caused by trapped kidney stones. A scan then showed a large mass above my kidney. I was obviously terrified, after almost giving up and leaving the A&E waiting room to then be told I couldn't go home.

Further scans, blood tests etc. were needed so I was in and out of hospital for weeks. Fiadh was only 10 months old and I think looking back, I just mentally shut down to get through.

The tumour (in my adrenal gland) was so large it needed removed asap and also couldn't safely be biopsied due to where it was. The surgery, in April 2022, luckily went very well, removing my adrenal gland and the tumour without damaging my kidney or vena cava. I was finally diagnosed with Adrenal Cancer (aggressive, high reoccurrence rate, one in a million people get it, lucky me!...) quickly put on a tablet form of chemo which I take every day and will keep doing so for 2-5 years.

Then in August they decided Radiotherapy was also needed as a precaution.

What I had no idea of, were the effects of Chemo and Radio. I am immunosuppressed, fatigued, sick, the surgery site has become increasingly stiff and sore, I will not be having any more children and every year I get will be filled with gratitude.

(I'm not a big talker in depth about all of this so sorry to any friends or fam who find out new info from this blog post x)

Recovery & Disability

The removal of my adrenal gland alongside chemo means that the remaining gland will likely never work again, resulting in me becoming steroid dependent. I have to take Hydrocortisone tablets every day and carry an emergency injection incase of Adrenal Crisis.

If I get sick, can't keep down my meds or become stressed/ run out of this steroid in my body then I will go into Adrenal Crisis and quickly a coma. Not so fun.

The kicker in this is that chemo eats up the steroid and this long ass explanation of a situation, isn't common, so I have to wear a medic alert bracelet just incase to help any poor medic who has to bring me to a hospital.

Enter my emotional support Colm. My husband has handled the last couple of years so so well, while trying to look after my physical and mental health. Pushing me into sea swimming when I don't feel like it, encouraging me to go to Reiki, Yoga, Physio and Psychology.

I haven't been able to work or be as hands on with our toddler as needed so I really need to big him up as much as I can and there just aren't the words to justify him.

Anyway, before anyone starts to worry about Colm, he thankfully knows how to look after himself also and still keeps active and plans trips away for us in the motorhome (cancers gotta have some perks.. named TT, Tumour Tourer).

To sum up!

People talk about the cancer hangover, once the dust settles and the trauma of the past year or so starts to sink in. That's when people can struggle the most, even though they may appear 'better'. I have to go for monthly blood tests, regular scans and all of these are like a gut punch reminder every time a letter comes through the door or I hear an add on the radio.

As a good friend of mine said, 'There's no point in beating cancer if you can't enjoy life."

I beat myself up a lot, not being able to even walk the dogs some days or feel like I have the energy for my own toddler, can be very hard. Especially after discovering how stubborn I am. The inability to just go for a run or a hike like I used to, all of this as well as forcing myself to take the large pills every single night that will hopefully prolong my life, but also cause me fatigue and other symptoms.

Going from a very busy and active person to now, has been a shock to the system and to say I've been unwilling to accept the situation is an understatement. My moods and health are heavily up and down but I've finally felt like I'm able to take back some control.

If I can't run 5K just yet, go up the mountains, but can get in the Baltic Sea, go to a yoga class, write about it and share my experiences, then maybe I can help some others to just think about looking after themselves that little bit more, while also trying to help myself and live life to the absolute fullest.

Every day is literally a mental battle, so if writing, sharing and being a bit more raw and open here and on social media helps me find my way back to that sense of purpose in life, so be it.

I am determined to get back to adventuring and enjoying life as much as possible, whether that be hiking, paddle boarding, sea swimming, or just taking some restorative time for myself as well as exciting times with my loved ones. Ive also always looked up to and admired those who help and inspire others, hopefully in some small way I can be one of those people.

I love my dogs, my family and just want my lil one to be proud of me and have some great memories.

I do not want anyone to think I am complaining, simply being honest and open, even if I have days where I don't want to talk at all, the struggles are something to get through. So, that's us all caught up!

Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

Thank you for reading,

hug your dog,

Gem and the Hounds;


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