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March Newsletter

 

 

 

Hi everyone,

I realise we are now almost two weeks in to April, and that March is well and truly OVER, but I haven’t yet had time to eat/sleep/breathe since I returned from my little European escape to Bratislava and Vienna which is why this post is seriously overdue! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I’ve been a very busy bee lately, and if you don’t (why don’t you? Go follow go follow!) here’s my March round up in a bit more detail so you can see exactly what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks!

I popped down to London for a work event

 

Dinner with a view 😍🍴 #London #visitlondon #nationalportraitgallery

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Right at the start of the month I was invited to take part in a team-day in London with one of my clients who I work with as part of my freelance business. We met for breakfast at Café in the Crypt in St Martin in the Fields and then headed to The National Portrait Gallery to gaze at some of the wonderful artwork on display. After a little wander we popped up to the gallery’s exclusive restaurant and had a fantastic lunch with brilliant rooftop views over the iconic London skyline. Before it was time to catch my train back to Oxford I went for a little stroll past Trafalgar Square, down towards The Mall and Buckingham Palace and spent a lovely sunny afternoon playing tourist for the day!

I had my annual hospital check up

 

My hospital check ups are a big part of my life, not because I let my illness define me, but because I am constantly monitored and I want to see how I’m progressing, or deteriorating, and with each year that passes it’s sort of another milestone that I’ve reached. This year marked my sixth annual check up, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I was first diagnosed with my prolactinoma! I’m really pleased to say that I’ve been responding well to another year of the same medication (I stopped then re-started it last summer) and it seems as though the tumor is still shrinking – yay!

I still need more tests doing on my eyes so I have been referred back to the hospital in August for another mini check up, but my next full check up will be in another 12 months time, so March 2018. The Pituitary Foundation, the wonderful charity who have supported me with my diagnosis for the past six years, actually published my story on their website this month and it was really well received – have a read if you can spare five minutes out of your day, as hopefully it will help you to understand why I get so poorly and often can’t travel as much as I want to!

I’ve fully embraced Spring

 

 

 

I just love sunshine.  I love the warmth of the air, I love the blue of the sky, I love the feeling that summer is just around the corner, and that’s probably why I love spring so much! We’ve been really lucky to have had a few bright sunny days over here in the UK lately and it makes me appreciate where I live even more when I can get out for long dog walks in the countryside and spend some quality time in the great outdoors!

I spent Mothers Day at Wembley with my dad (sorry mum!)

 

 

This was a totally spontaneous, unplanned day trip that just so happened to fall on Mothers Day, ooops! My dad had been given a couple of free tickets to watch England’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley Stadium so we thought it would be rude not to make use of them! The sun was shining, the fans were out in force and it was a beautiful day for the beautiful game! It had been a good 12 years or so since my dad and I had last gone to Wembley together so, as we walked down the famous Wembley Way, we took a little trip down memory lane and reminisced about the last time we were there. We had a really lovely day out and I can’t wait to go back to Wembley again in the not too distant future!

I took a trip to Cotswold Wildlife Park (for the 1000th time)

 

What a beautiful day for a wander round #cotswoldwildlifepark in the sunshine ☀️☀️ #Cotswolds #oxfordshire #happysaturday

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I live literally 5 minutes from the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, located just past the pretty town of Burford (where I went to school!) so I have been coming to this place since I was a newborn baby! Me and my sisters always try and visit when we can, even though one of them works there at the weekends! We chose a really lovely day (luckily) and spent all afternoon wandering around the park and gardens seeing the animals, taking our westie dog with us and enjoying ice cream in the sunshine. CWP is a fantastic place for a family day out and I never tire of it despite visiting every year since I was born!

I spent 2 days exploring Bratislava…

 

🌅🏰 We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill 🌅🏰

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March also saw me take some adventures a little further afield, and I was so ready for another city break by the time the end of the month came around! Me and Lucy had planned our mini Europe trip to Slovakia and Austria so flew to Bratislava for two nights to start off our adventure. Our only full day in the capital was spent walking over 16km, hiking up to the beautiful castle on the hill, climbing towers for spectacular panoramic views across the city, and learning all about the history of the city with a walking tour from Visit Bratislava, who we worked with during our trip. I’ll be writing up a full guide to Bratislava in the coming days, but I really really loved my time there and I can’t wait to show you all my pretty photos!

… and then hopped on a train to Vienna for two nights!

 

Ohhhhhh Viennaaaaaaa 🎼🎼

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As part of our mini Europe tour we jumped on a train from Bratislava to Vienna for two nights and spent some time exploring everything the Austrian capital had to offer. We arrived early in the city and had enough time to visit the famous palaces, opera houses, churches and the beautiful St Stephen’s Cathedral. We also wandered through some of the many green parks and spent an afternoon at one of the oldest amusement parks in the world! Working with the Vienna Tourist Board, we fitted in as much as we could during our short stay before heading back to Bratislava again to fly home. A city guide to Vienna will be published on the blog soon so keep an eye out for that, but Lucy and I had the BEST time on our mini Europe adventure!

So there we have it, my March has been crazy busy but I wouldn’t have had it any other way! I’ve already spent the first two weeks of April running around like a headless chicken, going on a spa day, taking my little dog for long walks in the countryside, and working every hour god sends to try and get more money for my upcoming travels! The rest of April is filled up too and my next trip will be London for three nights at the end of the month for Traverse 17 and I am SO EXCITED! How did your March go? Leave me a comment below – I hope you’ve been enjoying the warm sunny weather we’ve been having here in the UK…long may it continue!

Love Jess x

 

I'm just gonna keep posting pics from my #Bratislava trip cos I was there this time last week and I LOVE IT SO MUCH 🏰😍 @visitbratislava

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Travelling with an illness… Happy rare disease day!

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Hello everyone,

This is slightly personal and I wasn’t sure if I should post this at first but, after realizing that today was a special day, I couldn’t help but put this blog post together. 29th February is Rare Disease Day, an annual event which provides the rare disease community across the world the opportunity to increase awareness of rare diseases and highlight them as a public health priority to government departments. I actually have quite a rare condition which does impact my life, particularly as an avid traveller! Here’s my story…

When I was 18 I started to become poorly. I was being sick, weirdly leaking from my breasts, having severe headaches and generally feeling very tired, faint and dizzy. It took all of my energy to just do even the smallest of tasks. After endless tests, prods and trips to the doctors an MRI scan on my brain showed a small growth and I was finally diagnosed with a microprolactinoma. Put simply, a microprolactinoma is a benign, pea sized tumor on the pituitary gland in the brain which causes an imbalance of the hormone prolactin in the body. At first I was completely terrified, hearing the words ‘brain’ and ‘tumor’ in the same sentence was overwhelming and I was upset, confused and scared. I had no idea what a microprolactinoma was, and a Google search was filled with forums of other women, and even men, discussing how the condition had impacted upon their lives.

The thing that jumped out at me most was the subject of fertility, and the problems that a prolactinoma can cause. In many cases the hormones produced by a prolactinoma make it difficult for women to conceive, and this is something I really struggled to comprehend. Anyone that knows me will know how much I love children and that the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do in life is be a mum. The thought that I may never achieve what I’ve always dreamt about is completely crushing, but I know there are other options available and many women have gone on to have children despite suffering with a prolactinoma.

Nowadays my life consists of regular doctors appointments, 3monthly blood tests, 6 monthly hospital appointments with my consultant, occasional MRI scans and 9monthly appointments at the eye hospital to check the tumor isn’t pressing on the back of my optic nerves. It’s been almost 5 years since I was diagnosed. At first I was told I’d be on tablets for life, but earlier on this year I came off them for the first time since 2011 as my consultant wanted to see how my body would react without relying on the tablets. I was feeling really healthy and doctors were pleased with my progress.

Unfortunately, just before Christmas last year I started becoming unwell again and symptoms from my initial diagnosis were coming back. My headaches were getting worse and I was feeling similar to the way I felt right at the start of my illness. In November I was advised to go back on my medication after blood tests confirmed my prolactin levels had increased significantly. I’ve been on the tablets since then and my next check up is mid March so hopefully there will be a slight improvement and I’ll start feeling better soon!

 

Back in October I ran a fun run for The Pituitary Foundation, a charity who have been incredibly supportive of my condition over the past 5 years. I managed to raise over £300 for the charity and you can donate to my JustGiving page at any time – better late than never! You can also donate directly to Pituitary’s Rare Disease Day as well.

I suppose what I’m really trying to say is, even if you have an illness or a medical condition, DON’T let it limit your life! Make the most of every single day we have on this beautiful planet and, if you travel a lot like me you can still live your life to the full and do whatever the hell you want (within reason!) Although my symptoms affect me daily and my appointments limit me to the amount of time I can spend out of the country, I know that things could be so much worse and am just thankful that I am being well looked after by the fantastic doctors and consultants at Oxford University Hospitals.

If, like me, you live with a health condition and travel often I’d recommend the following tips on travelling safely:

– don’t over exert yourself or feel like you have to keep up with people, take it easy and take each day as it comes

– remember to take your medication, different routines often bring forgetfulness!

– don’t suffer in silence.. tell someone! Even if you don’t want to go into detail about your illness just inform someone so they can keep an eye on you

– don’t get fed up with your illness, remember that there are millions of people suffering across the world, most probably worse off than you if you’re still able to travel! Keep your chin up and carry on as normal

I also have another condition, a recurring cyst on my ovary which causes me pain every few weeks, but that is a WHOLE other story! So I’ll leave you with this parting line… Happy Rare Disease Day people – get out there and grab life with both hands… you’ll regret it if you don’t!

Love Jess x

 

 

October Newsletter: Autumn Has Arrived!

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Hi everyone,

So firstly I wanted to apologise for the huuuuuge delay in writing this up and my lack of blog posts since September! I’ve been super busy since I returned from my recent holiday away to Budapest that I’ve barely had time to think! Now that the nights are getting darker and the days are getting colder, it feels as if autumn is well and truly here and its given me chance to get myself a little more organised. I thought I’d better give you all an overview of what’s been happening lately so my new blog feature, a monthly newsletter, should explain it nicely! Here goes…

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Budapest was a brilliant place to visit for my 5th European city break in the past 2 years; its full of culture, character and charm and provided the perfect getaway for me and my sister. We spent three nights and four days in the city which gave us plenty of time to see the sights, explore the little side streets and indulge in some Hungarian history. I’ll be writing up my Budapest adventure as soon as possible, so watch this space!…

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The day after I returned from my holiday I whizzed straight off to Northampton to see one of my best friends get married. She held her reception at the beautiful Dodford Manor, a converted countryside barn which was simply stunning. Everyone had a brilliant time, and the bride and groom looked totally gorgeous! Congrats Mr & Mrs Nicholson, and thank you for letting me be a part of your special day! <3

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Last weekend I headed into London for the day to review some of the best restaurants and bars in trendy Westminster. I hadn’t been to the capital since June so I was dying to go back and this gave me the perfect excuse to visit! As many of my regular readers know, I’ve been contributing for global online magazine The Culture Trip since the summer and was delighted to be asked to take part in their new Neighbourhood project. The task involves taking an area of London and posting about the best bars, restaurants, brunches and things to see and do in said area. I chose to take on Westminster, Covent Garden and Canary Wharf and couldn’t wait to get to work!

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As part of my research I set up meetings with bar and restaurant managers for a few of my chosen establishments and had the pleasure of being toured around the buildings, interviewing the managers and even being treated to a few free drinks… the perks of being a travel blogger! I’m currently busy typing up my posts for The Culture Trip, all of which are due to be completed by mid December so my works are pretty much all scheduled in between now and Christmas.. it’ll be here before we know it…scary stuff! In between interviewing lovely managers, blagging free drinks and being toured around some beautiful places I managed to squeeze in some sightseeing with my close friend and we even had time to enjoy a scrummy ice cream or two at the AMAZING Haagen Daas Ice Cream Parlour in Leicester Square. I’ll social share my Culture Trip posts once they’re live and will write up my interviews as soon as I can!

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This weekend has been a little more chilled, thankfully, so I’ve had chance to spend some quality time with my family as we strolled around one of our favourite local haunts, beautiful Blenheim Palace in nearby Woodstock. Our westie, Cassie, absolutely adores running around the grounds and we wandered around the lake with her whilst staring at the grand architecture of the Palace itself. View one of my previous blog posts to find out a little more about the birthplace of one of Britain’s most loved characters, Sir Winston Churchill.

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My final piece of news in this month’s newsletter is that I’ve been asked to write a series of Destination Guides for the brilliant ABN Save Travel Group. Travel writer Breanna Wilson has been working with me closely to edit and publish my guides and it’s been great to get another piece of my work published on a more global scale. Like The Culture Trip, ABN Save have asked me to write weekly articles on some of the hottest city break destinations. As most of you lovely readers will know, my blog focuses on European city breaks and so I’m delighted to be able to share some of my knowledge and handy tips with a much wider audience. My first post for ABN Save was published last week, click here to read my Paris Destination Guide. Next up is Barcelona and Reykjavik so I’ll be social sharing those in due course.

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As a side note, I’m also running The Big 5K Fun Run in aid of The Pituitary Foundation so I’ll be in Milton Keynes for that next Sunday. I’m running for The Pituitary Foundation as they have been a charity that have supported me since my prolactinoma diagnosis 5 years ago. Please visit my JustGiving page to read my story and help me raise lots of money and awareness for this fantastic charity. Thank you in advance to anyone that can find it in their heart to donate! <3

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That pretty much completes my first newsletter for this month, I told you I’ve been busy! I’ll be writing like crazy over the next few weeks and I have a few more little trips planned between now and the end of the year so, as always, I’ll remember to keep you posted! My next write up will be my beautiful Budapest trip… enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Love Jess x

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