Isn’t it marvellous when someone manages to turn a horrible situation into something wonderful? I’m not talking about “Oh no! I let my bananas over-ripen, time to make some banana bread” kind of terrible, but something truly awful and potentially life changing… something like a cancer diagnosis.
That’s what happened to Anikka Burton from Sussex in 2011, when at the age of 33 she discovered that she was suffering from an advanced form of breast cancer. Since then, she has undergone a rigorous treatment regime which has included chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy and 5 operations - enough to break anyone’s spirit im sure you will agree.
“The fear of the unknown is massive - and the word 'chemotherapy' conjures up all sorts of awful connotations. Of course, it is hard, but not nearly as horrifically dreadful as you imagine - and ultimately it is a medicine that in many instances is the only chance of a cure” Annika tells us.
Chemo For Beginners
Determined to glean some positivity from the whole experience Annika decided to create a regular blog which would provide practical advice, information and comforting words to others undergoing the rigors of chemotherapy. Thus ‘Chemo for Beginners’ was born;
“It was quite a cathartic exercise. I constantly read, and re-read a couple of blogs that helped me during treatment, so I hoped that I could maybe use my experience to help one or two others in the same way. I have had lovely messages from girls all around the world who have said that my blog has helped them in some way - and that is a great feeling”
But Annika’s determination and ambition did not relent with the completion of the blog and her experiences of chemotherapy left her with a great idea niggling in the back of her mind.
“The idea came when I was overwhelmed with flowers from well-wishers. I was, of course, incredibly grateful and touched by every bunch of flowers and message of support that I received, but it was later on, when friends and well-wishers kept saying that they had wanted to send a token of their well wishes and hadn't known what else to get me that I thought that I wouldn't have before my experience...but I do now!”
Not Another Bunch of Flowers!
Annika’s new business ‘Not Another Bunch of flowers’ provides a handpicked selection of pretty and practical 'get well' gifts which are a thoughtful alternative to the (much appreciated) but often superfluous, bunch of flowers.
“I really appreciated the more practical gifts as I didn't want to be dashing around buying things like eye masks and pyjamas appropriate for surgery. I also loved anything natural and pampering as it was the only way I could spoil myself during treatment”
Much of the problem that Annika is trying to solve is that people simply don't know what products are suitable for those who are undergoing chemo and other forms of therapy. Many ingredients commonly found in everyday items can have unpleasant and often dangerous interaction with various medications, and can significantly diminish their curative effects. 'Not Another Bunch of Flowers' gives people a way of showing that they care, without the use of flowers, or indeed the risks associated with certain products.
“I think most people are aware that it is a difficult treatment and are very empathetic and supportive during treatment. What I don't think most people realise is that many symptoms are long-lasting, but the understanding of others seems to end with the final treatment after which you are expected to spring back to 'normal'. Unfortunately this is the time that most people struggle with. Not only are you suddenly released from the comforting care of your medical team, but long-term side effects (that include fatigue, bone pain and aches and cognitive dysfunction) are not well-known, but can be debilitating. I think it is important that there is some understanding and knowledge of this so that the patient can be properly supported by their family, friends, colleagues and employers properly both during and after treatment”
All of the items which Annika provides have been hand selected for their quality and safety during the cancer treatment process and all serve some practical / pampering purpose.
Undeniably ‘Not Another Bunch of Flowers’ is a fabulous, and necessary idea, but we were curious what drove Annika forward with the project when so many others in the same position wouldn't have pursued it. She told us;
“I had finished my previous job in the travel industry just before I was diagnosed and had been looking for new work. When I received my diagnosis, one of the first things I did was to re-evaluate my life and one thing I knew I wanted to change was working very hard for someone else and not being properly rewarded for it”
Now that’s self starter spirit if ever we saw it!
Whoever you are, we strongly recommend that you take a look Annika’s blog 'Chemo for Beginners' (you are guaranteed to learn something) and if you are after a present for a poorly loved one, then 'Not Another Bunch of Flowers' is the place for you!