Sue’s Blogging about… 5 ways YouCan kickstart your Well-being in 2018


Happy new year everyone!

  1. YouCan Make a New Start

Wanting to start 2018 off with a bang? Everyone makes New Years Resolutions and it to be honest most of mine go out the window before Januarys end. But I’ve decided if I struggle one day I can start again tomorrow – so that makes my resolution not to give up straight away! And, as I found out last year when I started working out after treatment, resolutions can be made any time of the year, not just the start of the year.

Here’s a few tips that could help you out:


2. YouCan Exercise

Exercise is key in minimising the chances of re-occurrence of any cancer. It also helps reduce the risk of heart disease, mental health issues, obesity, just to name a few. My oncologist said that if exercise was the pill then she would prescribe it all the time it does so many things. In a nutshell, exercise is amazing. The thing is, pills are easy to take, exercise involves a bit more effort.


Getting back into exercise after treatment can be a struggle so keep it simple – a 15 min walk once a day can be a good starting off point. Then you can extend it, make your walk slightly longer or add some hills in to get your heart rate up. After my treatment I did just this and after about a month I was able to do a 45 min walk without my legs aching like bill-ee-oh.

I find that it helps to do something you enjoy as it gives you more motivation to keep going with it. I love dancing so I’ve decided to do Youtube Zumba videos at home and go to a Clubbersize class – you exercise to dance music with glow sticks! Gimmicky maybe, but it’s fun and gets my heart pumping.

YouCan offers a 12 week exercise programme with a Personal Trainer qualified to help people recovering from treatment. This can be done at your own pace too; I did the training once a week but you can do it as much or as little as you like. My PT, Marin, focused on exercises that built up my strength but also my stamina. Now I feel much stronger than I ever did before cancer.

If you would like more information about the 12 week programme or any other exercise classes we offer please email or call us on 01732 844874.

YouCan are also hosting a few events this year that you might like to take part in:

  • YouCan Bike Ride – 13th May 2018
  • YouCan Run
  • YouCan Golf Day

More information about these events will be posted in due course.


3. YouCan Eat Well

I don’t know about you, but I find eating the ‘right’ things all very stressful and confusing! There is so much conflicting advice out there it is difficult to know what to do for the best. I personally would choose something that fits in with your lifestyle. I know that for me, anything to complicated just puts me right off!eat well plate

I’ve been to a few talks in nutrition since my diagnosis. There is plenty of information on website, including the handy infographic here.


There are also lots of new cook books out this time of year that could give you some food inspiration which are all healthy. You can decide if you want to follow the meal plan recommended or not, I personally just pick and choose what I want to eat rather than follow a specific plan but it depends what works best for you. Body coach Joe Wicks now has three recipe books which includes exercise advice in them too but many of his recipes can be found online too:

He also has his own YouTube channel with lots of quick, easy HIIT workouts to try in the comfort of your own home:


When I was diagnosed I wanted more information about what I was eating if there was anyway to prevent re-occurrence with food. I invested in two cook books which I used during treatment – though I’ve used them a lot more since now everything tastes a lot better! They are:

  • Royal Marsden Cancer Cook Book – I used this during chemo, particularly the smoothies when I couldn’t stomach food.

  • The Living Well with Cancer Cook Book – This book was particularly helpful because it explained which foods are good and why during treatment as well as a few recipes.


4. YouCan Meditate

Meditation is very popular at the moment but has actually been practised for thousands of years. There are many benefits to your emotional well-being when you practise meditation:

  • Lessens worry, anxiety and impulsivity
  • Reduces stress, fear, loneliness and depression
  • Enhances self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • Improves resilience against pain and adversity
  • Increases optimism, relaxation and awareness
  • Helps promote a healthier lifestyle eg. Helps prevent emotional eating and smoking
  • Helps develop positive social connections
  • Improves your mood and emotional intelligence
  • Improves concentration
  • Studies have also shown that it can boost your immunity and lower your bloody pressure.

So, is meditation hard? No! There are so many apps out there such as Headspace and Calm which literally talk you through it. I personally used Headspace throughout my treatment and found it particularly useful. Do you have to spend a lot of time doing it? No! Just 10 minutes each day can help bring on the above benefits. There are lots of free meditations on youtube that you can access if the apps aren’t for you.


5. YouCan use the YouCan Wellbeing Zone

YouCan had its very own Wellbeing Resource available online and on an app. This dashboard has plenty of advice, articles and support available for free. Full details are in the flyer below. It also says how you can access it at the bottom.

youcan fluer app




Sue’s Blogging About… Health Walks

walking to imprve your health

I love this time of year. It’s getting colder but it’s still dry – or at least in Kent it is! Perfect walking weather.

Getting back into just moving, let alone any other exercise, after my active treatment was a massive struggle. I was determined to shift the weight I’d piled on during chemotherapy (cheers steroids) but more importantly for me I wanted to get my independence and energy back.

Walking was a great starting off point for me. During chemo just walking up the stairs was a struggle so I knew I needed to start small and build up. I’m not a particularly patient person and I wanted to be fitter yesterday, but I persevered, starting at a slow 20 minute walk on flat paths and built up. My legs were in agony – those muscles hadn’t been used for months!- but I kept going.

walking gif

Leading an active lifestyle has become much more important to me post diagnosis (better late than never eh?!) and walking is a great place to start if you want to become more active. It’s a safe and easy way to become more active both during and after most types of cancer treatment.

I found out about Health Walks at my local GP surgery and thought I’d give it a go. Walking groups are a great way to meet new people in a friendly environment. Whilst I was the youngest there and, as far as I know, the only person coming to the end of a stint of chemo, I really enjoyed meeting everyone and the 40 minutes of walking flew by.

Laura and I recently went on another Health Walk around Leybourne Lakes. The people that run the walks in this area are extremely friendly, make sure that everyone goes at a suitable pace for them and that no one got left behind. Again, the hour flew by and we both felt super energised after it was done.


For those of us concerned about our bone health post treatment, brisk walking is a great low-impact weight bearing exercise to start with. It is recommended by health care professionals that you try and do 150 minutes of weight bearing exercise a week, so a Health Walk could be one way of getting those minutes in!

Having built up muscle mass and energy lost during treatment I’m starting to move on to jogging but I’m still walking most days – mainly because we got a puppy! Lola the Miniature Schnauzer loves walking, which helps keep me motivated too – she’s not as keen on Christmas jumpers though!


To find your nearest Health Walk please use the link below. Or walk with friends. Walking is a great way to exercise and socialise at the same time.

health walk glasto



Sue’s Blogging About… The YouCan Run 2017!


It’s that time of year again… it was the second YouCan Run! After the success of last year YouCan decided to hold another run, this time on the 1st October. The leaves had just started to turn and there was a nip in the air but that didn’t stop over 300 runners from coming to Leeds Castle to attempt either the 5k or 10k.

Myself and a few friends – Sue’s Sprinters – had an excellent morning. It was my first ever 5k – heck my first ever run! – and Hannah’s first ever 10k so we had some goals to smash and new PBs to gain. My sister Laura just woke up, rolled out of bed, and with little to no training just casually ran the 10k – madness! All in the aid of raising money for YouCan.

Pic below – Sue’s Sprinters – (l-r) Hannah, Laura, Sarah and me before the race. Glittered up and ready to rock and roll!


This year we had some amazing volunteers cheering us on all around the course. I’m sure it would have been pretty miserable in the spitting rain but all of them gave up their time and cheered us on with massive smiles as we sprinted (or in my case stumbled) past them. I can’t explain exactly how awesome it is to be cheered on when you feel like you just can’t run another step more. So thank you, all of you, you really helped me – and I’m sure a lot of others – get around the course. And of course you helped the charity too. Without you, the event literally could not happen, so thank you again.

Tescos were supporting the event and Andy and Stuart were there helping with gazebos and banners early in the morning. They also provided all the water around the course for the runners. I’m not gonna lie but one of the best things after running 5k was getting that bottle of water at the end – behind getting my medal of course.

We had a brilliant turn out of runners this year. From adults running their first ever races – like me – to professional runners, to children, we were a very diverse group! There were people from Beginners to Runners who did their first 5ks or 10ks. I was so impressed with their determination; when one of the ladies came over the finish line almost in tears I was welling up right along with her, what an amazing achievement! It was a huge challenge for a lot of people and it was lovely to see adults and kids alike sailing across the finish line with massive grins on their faces.

Some of the nurses – and Trevor –  from Charles Dickens ward in Maidstone Hospital came and ran the race. Some of these amazing women actually treated me a few months ago when I was having my chemotherapy and it was lovely to see them again. They always made me feel welcome in the ward, offering a sunny smile, some advice and compassion. This was particularly important to me towards the last few chemo sessions when I was really struggling. The Charles Dickens nurses are wonderful at their jobs and I feel really lucky to have had my treatment there because of them.  I’m sure a few of them wouldn’t mind me saying that they are not natural runners (like me!) and I know for them running this race was a massive personal challenge. They also did some fundraising and for that I am so incredibly grateful and proud. These nurses do lifesaving work every day and they used their free time to do the run – incredible! Basically, I just can’t thank them enough for everything.

Pic below – Some of the nurses from Maidstone Hospital that ran with Trevor and Ward Manager Keli Tomlin.

maidstone nurses

After my chat on the mic (embarrassing!) before the 10k set of it was so lovely to have fellow runners cheering me and others on as they went around. And it is a tough course, no doubt about it. Mainly on grass – though at some points just plain mud – with some really steep inclines throughout. Then the people who signed up to do the 10k, well they had to run the course twice! I did not envy them at all. At some point around the course I remember thinking “maybe I could have tackled the 10k” and then another hill came and I realised if I was doing the 10k I’d have to do it all again. Not a chance. So massive WELL DONE to everyone who did that.

I’m still waiting on the official total of everything raised by the run and I will update here as soon as I know. But I’m super proud to say Sue’s Sprinters smashed the team target of £800 by raising over £1700 for YouCan! So honoured to call the amazing ladies who ran with me my friends (and sister friend!) and they kept me going during training too.

Pic below – Sue’s Sprinters having just crossed the finish line – elation!

sue's sprinters

For me, the run was a milestone. A moment in my history that I could hang my hat on, so to speak. I’m done with active treatment and struggling to get my body back to where it was before cancer. I have never really run before, apart from racing to catch the last bus from a night out in my youth, so I knew this was going to be incredibly hard anyway. Without the support from YouCan – the personal training, boot camp and nutritional advice – I would have struggled to get that 5k medal and new PB (only PB?! 39 minutes thank you very much!) I would never have been able to run 5k before my diagnosis so this is just one of the ways YouCan is helping me get back on track.

So here’s to next years YouCan Race. I, for one, can’t wait – and I never thought I’d say that about running!!! Maybe next year I’ll do the 10k….?!


Running, running, running, running…


I don’t know about you but I find running super hard. I’m training (and I use the word loosely) for the  YouCan 5k at Leeds Castle in a few weeks time. So, to help me out and give me some more motivation I made this Spotify playlist.

Hope this helps you with your training!

Also, any suggestions for running songs please add in the comments and I’ll pop them on the playlist.

#youcan #youcanrun #leedscastle #runningmusic #musicisgoodforthesoul

YouCan Run 2016



Even with a 6am start on a Sunday morning, there are few sights more beautiful than Leeds Castle. To stand alone on the hill looking down at the castle feels like a privilege, everything is utterly peaceful and the view just takes your breath away. And then reality hits and the fear kicks in! In just a few hours there would be around 450 people descending to take part in the very first YouCan Run. Would we actually be able to pull this off? Would all the months of planning and preparation finally come together and everything run smoothly?

When we first decided to stage a run event it was a real leap of faith. After all, YouCan is a very new charity. We don’t have a database of thousands of supporters to call on. We don’t have masses of resources at our disposal. We definitely had the enthusiasm and we had a certain amount of belief …and we had the wonderfully generous team at Leeds Castle who had trusted us with the gift of their estate in which to hold this event. It was with a deep breath and fingers crossed that we leapt into the YouCan Run plan. Our target – 200 runners. That would constitute a success.

Six months on and we found ourselves scurrying around the office allocating 400+ t-shirts, frantically making sure we had enough medals (there was a last minute order panic) and worrying whether we would have enough water for the water stations. Big thank you to Andy and Stuart from Tesco at this point who didn’t bat an eyelid when they got a call from me to ask if they could magic up enough water for another 100 people two days before the event. I wish you could have seen the slightly childish excitement of the team when we reached 200 runners …then 300 …and finally 399 on the day we closed on-line registrations. I kind of wish we’d stayed open just long enough to hit that magic 400 pre-registered, but that’s just plain greedy!

We spent a long day at Leeds Castle on the Saturday (day before the Run) when we set up as much as we could – the gantry, the tents, most of the course. It’s slightly eerie to look at the skeleton of an event. Just an outline. Totally still and quiet. Waiting for the people to bring it alive.

And then suddenly, there they all were. 447 runners (we had 48 sign up on the day) and supporters, family and friends. And the hill overlooking the castle was alive with noise and with colour. Our amazing band of volunteers were on hand to help with registrations, to hand out t-shirts, to man the water stations, to cheer and support runners as marshalls around the course. Pretty much everyone you would have seen helping out on Sunday was a volunteer who gave up their time to support us. And we are so grateful to them all.

The runners. 270 took part in the 10km. 177 took part in the 5km. We sent them all out on the same course; we sent the 10km runners round twice! It’s a pretty tough course at Leeds Castle. Much of it is on grass and there are a couple of rather cruel inclines to really challenge people. But for a lot of it you get to keep the Castle in sight and the view from points on the course are truly stunning and must surely have kept runners minds off the pain of the hills (at least I hope so). There were plenty of smiles, even at the end of the race, so I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Our photographer, Jodi, has captured some fabulous images of the runners and you can take a look at these by following the link:

By midday it was all over and we were packed up. And I was stood once again on top of the hill looking down on the Castle. And, if I may be so bold, whilst there may be few sights more beautiful I think I may have found something that just about tops it …the sight of 450 people running off down the hill towards the Castle in a sea of turquoise, orange and white YouCan t-shirts. That will stay with me for a long time. It was a very special moment for all of us at YouCan.

THANK YOU to everyone who took part, who volunteered, who simply turned up and supported …what a difference you will make to the lives of young people whose lives have been impacted by cancer. Look out for the final total raised, we’ll be announcing it soon.

Looks like we’d better start planning for the second YouCan Run …SEE YOU THERE!!

Sarah x





What Yoga Has Taught Me – Ashton Howard


Ashton’s Story

On the 13th January 2014, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, my life as I knew it immediately came crashing to a halt. I was admitted to hospital the following day where I was put into isolation for over 6 weeks and began an intensive 10 month chemotherapy regime. I was forced to follow a strict neutropenic diet due to my weakened immune system, this was to stop me contracting infections which basically meant anything fresh and healthy was a no go. I struggled to stomache the hideous hospital food which I’m sure made me feel sicker than the chemo cocktails themselves.

Having always been a health conscious person I felt let down by my body and frustrated that this had happened to me, however as my consultant informed me there is no ‘rhyme or reason’ as to why I got this and I was just simply unlucky. As I always say I’m the luckiest, unlucky person alive!

I am slowly getting my life back on track and learning to repair and restore my mind and body back to good health. It’s my belief that my diagnosis was a wake up call to change and in some strange way I feel lucky to have been given this opportunity to transform my life.

What Yoga Has Taught Me

I have always enjoyed yoga even before my diagnosis I used to attend weekly classes however back then I just used to go through the motions, It never really resonated with me like it does now and I’ve realised that’s because I was never fully present. My mind would still be racing around at a million miles per hour however falling ill forced me to slow down and really appreciate many of the amazing healing benefits that yoga has to offer.

For the last couple of years my life has been hugely restricted and in the hands of my doctors, I have often felt trapped and a prisoner in my own body which has been extremely frustrating. Practising yoga enables me to feel like I can take a bit of that control back.

Yoga involves working with breathing (pranayama), stretching exercises, postures (asanas) and meditation. All of which enable me to develop a greater sense of well being by directing my attention inward and connecting with the breath, allowing me to become present. Working with my body, mind and soul together, has helped me embrace my situation, bringing balance and clarity back into my life.

My overactive mind has a tendency to seek out worst-case scenarios, and so I often find myself living in a place of fear. My yoga practice creates the space for me to release this and let go of my worries. It is proven that Yoga has a calming effect on the body and many poses have a stress relieving effect. For example a twist posture is great for wringing out anger, which is often held in our inner organs, especially the liver.

My treatment often makes me feel fatigued but I have found that practising yoga helps restore my energy levels, it has helped me regain my confidence in my bodies ability and focus on slowly building my strength back up both physically and mentally.

I have discovered there are many different styles of yoga which I enjoy including Hatha, Ashtanga and Kundalini. However I was recently introduced to restorative yin yoga which I would highly recommend to anyone going through treatment or for those days when you’re lacking energy. Yin yoga is a simple, quiet practice deeply healing and nourishing. It is a more meditative approach where you hold the pose for a longer length of time while focusing on the breath.

I’m definitely not as strong or supple as I used to be or would like to be, but I have to respect my body and show it compassion as it has been through an awful lot. At times I have felt let down and angry that this happened to me but yoga reminds me to appreciate each breath and every pose that I can do.

Yoga offers so many amazing benefits from relieving joint and muscle aches, clearing out toxins and boosting the immune system the list goes on. I enjoy each challenge it brings but most importantly yoga has given me the tools to reconnect and make peace with my body, and now every time I step upon my mat I feel truly grateful.




Exercise & Cancer

Natalie is keen for us all to embrace the energetic and rounds us all up for a thirty minute brisk walk around the block every day, insisting that we will feel better for the effort. She has no qualms about sending us out under dark and heavy skies and ignores our shivering at the thought of venturing out into temperatures that even a polar bear would consider inhospitable! And yet, she’s right. Once the trainers are on and the thermal layers are secured (woolly hats optional) it becomes rather an energising and, dare I say, enjoyable half an hour.

We all know exercise is good for us (even when we complain about doing it) but there have been a whole lot of reports in the media over recent weeks about the benefits of being physically active when it comes to cancer.   According to research carried out by Macmillan, physical activity can …

  • improve or prevent the decline in physical function without increasing tiredness (fatigue) during cancer treatment
  • improve aspects of psychological wellbeing during and after cancer treatment
  • help recover physical function and improve fatigue after cancer treatment

So it would seem it’s out with bed rest and feet up and in with a pair of decent trainers and a gym membership! Well maybe running a marathon is a little optimist right now, but a simple daily walk in the fresh air might just lift the spirits and give a little burst of unexpected energy?

Keeping on the physical activity theme, we’re busy organising our first fun run. We’re so grateful to the team at Leeds Castle for allowing us to hold the YouCan Run there on Sunday 25th September. There will be a choice of 5km and 10km routes and everyone who takes part will get a special YouCan Run t-shirt and a medal (of course) to celebrate their achievement and support. Entry forms and full info will be out very soon but if you, or anyone you know, would like to take part you can email us now and we’ll make sure you get the details as soon as they’re available. Do join us, we would love to see you there.


And finally, let me introduce you to our newest ambassador, Benn Barham…


Ben is a professional golfer who has fought his own battle with cancer and has agreed to become an ambassador for YouCan. He will offer individual lessons to our young people, introducing them to the delights, and challenges, of golf. We are really looking forward to working with him and very grateful to him for offering his support to YouCan.