I have had my story covered in The Leader and Lindfield Life in the past week, which has prompted some lovely emails and messages from local girls and women who have been through the same thing as me - and were also overwhelmed with flowers and gifts they were unable to use. They said lots of nice things about my site and the gifts I have chosen which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I have replied to you all, but just wanted to say a big THANK YOU for getting in touch.
Lindfield Life (26 November 2013):
The Leader (14 November 2013):
Text from Lindfield Life:
When Anikka Burton was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2011, at the age of 33, she was overwhelmed by the support from her family friends and colleagues.
She was also inundated with bunches of flowers which accompanied the good wishes and messages of support. “It was really touching knowing that so many people were rooting for me - it gave me a much needed boost on the days I was struggling, but I ended up putting them in jugs, pint glasses, saucepans and anything else that would hold water!”
Anikka was also sent tempting foodie gifts including luxury cheeses, chocolates, wines and cupcakes, but ended up giving many of them away as she couldn’t eat any during her treatments.
Chatting to other patients, Anikka realised just how hard it was to find advice on choosing suitable and practical gifts for people undergoing chemotherapy. She decided it was time to change all that and, as a result, created www.notanotherbunchofflowers.com
The online shop offers affordable and practical gift ideas specially chosen for people battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. The business is run by Anikka from her home in Lindfield and a percentage of profits go to cancer charities.
“Many people want to show their support for a friend, family member or colleague with an illness by sending something to show they care,” said Anikka. “But rather than saying it with flowers like so many others or risking sending them something that they're not able to use, why not sent a practical and thoughtful package full of useful and pampering bits and bobs?
“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.”
Anikka’s personal battle with cancer began two years ago. With a family history of breast cancer, it was something she had always feared. “I lost my mum to the disease when I was young and, since then, all the women on my mother’s side of the family were also diagnosed,” she said.
She considered having a preventative mastectomy but was told to wait until after she had a family and stopped breastfeeding. Three years later Anikka was told she had an aggressive malignant form of breast cancer before she’d had a chance to start her family.
“My world fell apart – I felt I had been handed a slow, painful undignified death sentence.” Anikka recalled. “My future, previously roughly mapped out, became a big black questions mark and I was scared of the treatment.”
Anikka also felt terribly guilty. “My husband, family and friends were all going to be affected.”
Anikka went on to have what she describes as ‘the full works’ - chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy and 5 operations including a double mastectomy and permanent implants.
“Five months of chemotherapy was hard, but not as bad as I imagined and I managed to hold onto some of my hair by using the Paxman cold cap (a large helmet style hat that literally freezes your head to slow down the chemicals from reaching your hair follicles,” she said.
“My main side effects were weight gain, queasiness, extreme tiredness, headaches, menopausal symptoms, joint pain and I lost all of my body hair including eyelashes and eyebrows,”
During treatment Anikka wrote a blog to help others www.chemoforbeginners.com
She also started to develop her business idea and began to research suitable gifts for cancer patients, and other people recovering from surgery.
“I have handpicked some thoughtful and useful gifts that I would have loved to have received during my treatment,” she explained. “The gifts are pampering yet practical and toiletries are based on natural ingredients with no parabens or sulphates (as these are thought to cause cancer and aid the cancer to spread) and the edible goodies are dairy free (as it is recommended to avoid dairy with certain illnesses).
“I also wanted to sell something that would be welcome in hospitals given that many trusts no longer allow flowers on hygiene grounds.
“With each gift suggestion, I have explained which patients each gift is particularly suitable for and why I have personally selected it.”
Anikka will also be donating a proportion of all profits to selected charities and hopes to raise much more for charity in the future. “I desperately want to do "my bit" to help stamp out cancer in the future. It is a devastating disease - both emotionally and physically,”.she said.
Anikka’s battle is far from over and faces years of taking the drug Tamoxifen, which can have serious side effects.”I’ve been lucky and seem to tolerate it well, although I do suffer from joint pains and deteriorated eyesight,” she says.
“Unfortunately you never get the "all clear" with breast cancer and I am battling with a few lingering side effects of the aggressive treatment, but I am very happy to have just celebrated my second year in the land of "NED" (No Evidence of Disease). Long may that continue!”
To find out more about Anikka – readers can follow her blog or visit her Facebook page. “I welcome any feedback and will do my best to answer any questions,” she says.