Month: December 2016

My 2016: Highs, Lows and Resolutions!

So as 2016 draws to a close tomorrow it has been possibly the most eventful year in my life from battles with health to losing precious people in my life and from new people to new career developments, this is my little review of my highs, lows and what I hope for in 2017.

The Highs

1. This Blog – It would be a little strange if I didn’t put this as one of the big highlights of my year. May 2016 saw the birth of Pop On Down and my adventure into blogging. The blog which focused mainly on music until recently has featured some amazing new artists, soundtracks and playlists to get you through each month. The most talked about music blogpost has been the ‘High Strung Soundtrack‘ which racked up over 1,000 unique views in one week! Pop On Down now features lifestyle, fashion and entertainment stories and I have been lucky enough to collaborate with Adidas, Sony Music and Channel 4 in my first 6 months blogging so I would rate this as a personal high!

2. My Business – Another year down for my first business (Eclipse Stage School) and its hard to believe it’s around 9 years already. Each year the students surprise me and I even surprise myself a little with how much we can pack into one year. From rehearsals to stage, we produced a summer showcase to a sold out theatre, various events, radio and TV appearances and had a fun time while doing it all.

3. New People – Its hard to find good friends and people who you can love and trust at the same time, especially in this business, you often ask yourself ‘are they interested in me or in what I can give them?’. Luckily this year has brought me some decent, genuine and caring people who I will keep close for a long time. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining and every time my year became a little shitty, that silver lining showed! Good people are hard to find, so when you find one, hold onto them tight and don’t let go. (#InspirationalQuote)

4. My Other Dabbles – People who know me know that I venture into different projects all the time and this year was no different. Some projects are still quite secretive and will become a little clearer in 2017 but the ones I did complete this year worked out well, thank god! From presenting and producing the 4th annual ShowChoir Ireland Final to being involved with various events and new clients throughout the year, the future is looking exciting.

The Lows

1. Skin Cancer – If you read my blog regularly, you will have read a few weeks ago about my skin cancer battle which pretty much took over my life for 6 months this year and still to an extent is. One of the scariest experiences I’ve ever gone through and something that I am praying is finished, it will always be an ongoing concern for me now but luckily I had family, friends, students and close people to help me through it and make me smile when I wanted to jump under a duvet and cry. It was definitely a low for me but it could have been a lot worse.

2. Final Farewells – One of the closest people to me in my entire life passed in August this year which hit the whole family like a tonne of bricks. My Nanny Annie (aged 91) was the strongest woman around, one of the most hard working and caring people to ever grace this earth but sadly her time was up. She will never be forgotten by any of her family and friends as she was a real matriarch in everything she done from looking after her family to her work. A fighter til the end and a pretty alright singer as well! RIP Nanny Annie. We saw over 100 celebrity deaths this year but no star shines brighter than our Annie.

3. Life Lows – I could yabber on about how life was cruel to me this year but look, we all have bad days and good days. We all have events that happen throughout the year, people we lose contact with, situations we would rather avoid but they are what makes life, LIFE! Yes, I have had a fair few life lows this year but no more than anyone else.

The Resolutions

With 2017 just a day away it’s time to look at what is ahead of me and leave the past exactly there.

For me, I’m hitting the ground running with three shows already in production for the new year including the biggest event of my career as my business celebrates 10 years since it first opened its doors and that calls for a fitting tribute look back at the best bits from the last decade with over 80 students taking to the stage in November.

My second business, ShowChoir Ireland celebrates 5 years on the exact same weekend next year so thats another big celebration there and I have also lined up a pretty cool gig for early in the new year so I’m excited about my business ventures.

I’m also pretty happy with the company I will be spending time with in 2017. My family, friends and special ones will all be living it all with me and on this crazy adventure we call life. I’m hoping to travel some more and create memories with the ones I love and cherish most.

So my resolution is just that, spend time with the special ones in my life, do things that make me happy and work hard to achieve what I want. As easy as 1,2,3….. I hope!

2016 may not have been the perfect year for me but 2017 is looking pretty good right now. Happy New Year everyone and thank you for being a part of my life and Pop On Down this year.

Kenneth x

 

Skin Cancer Got Me Where It Hurt

So just to start on a clarification note, this is not a sympathy post nor is it an advice guide for anyone, it is simply my experience over the past few months and how something small became something quite frightening in my life when I was least expecting it.

If you follow my Instagram or Facebook you will have seen random hospital pictures, posts and even bursting stitches warnings over the past while so this may make it all a little bit clearer as to what it was all about!

Lets roll back to a general visit to my family doctor in January this year (2016) for something totally unrelated to the little skin tag under my eye that the doctor noticed and asked about. For me, it was a small pimple I had for the past year or so that had grown on top of the skin just under my eye which looked like every other skin tag or pimple I had seen previously on myself or friends, it was nothing to worry about, or so I thought.

The doctor said I should get it removed so an appointment was scheduled to have it done under local anaesthetic. The letter came almost immediately for the small procedure and it was for 3 months later in April 2016. Everyone has small lumps and bumps on their body that they could get rid of so this was just one of them.

April arrived and I attend the hospital to have the small skin imperfection removed from under my eye. It was scrapped off the face meaning it wasn’t cut, just skimmed off the top to make the skin flat again. In and out in just 2 hours with a numb face, I headed home to bed, not that I got much sleep after having part of my face hacked away at but I got up and went to work teaching kids to dance that evening so I wasn’t that bad! The surgeon said the piece removed would be sent to the lab and results should be back in 6 weeks, it is all procedure and most likely it would be a hair follicle or some blocked pores in the skin.

8 weeks (yes, not the original 6, but 8) had passed and in that time the small scab which formed over where the pimple once was had come off and unfortunately the skin had begun to form again in the exact same place but this time there were two smaller bubbles of skin either side of were the original one was. Back for the results to the hospital in July 2016 and a Senior Consultant entered the room to have a look at the healing process and instantly said that it may need to be done again. She then went on to open my notes and histology report on the removed skin to which she said “we cannot be sure what it exactly was, we think it is 90 per cent a hair follicle but there is always a possibility it is something else”. Not a mention of the C word so I was happy that it was just one of them things that hadn’t worked out and needed to be done again. She said that they needed to cut this time to take away the skin as maybe some of the cells had been left underneath when they scrapped it last time. So now I had to wait once again for another appointment for my second surgery on the same skin tag.

I awaited another letter in the post which scheduled my next surgery for 16th September 2016, the day everything changes in my mind. I am brought into the surgery room and told to hop onto the operating table. As I sit there, the head surgeon walks in and says “so, they are undecided whether this is a hair follicle or skin cancer“, my heart drops, mouth opens and mind races as I say “what?, I was never told this“. She looked nervous and extremely embarrassed by blurting out something that was never discussed with me but assured me that the lab will have more to go on after this removal and get a definitive answer. I lay down and was so on edge, not able to think of anything other than, I have been living with this on my face for the past however many months, been back to hospitals for check-ups and only being told this when I am about to be cut into. Great!

The deep incision to remove the bump was done and 12 stitches put along the crease in my eye to hold the skin together as it healed and again I was told that results would be back in a few weeks. While I waited for results the next few days would be hell with the stitches seeping blood almost constantly and one morning the bottom few burst completely leaving me in a bed of my own blood which was not pretty or sore at all…. yeah right!

I had to return to have the stitches taken out the following week when the nurse said they would put more in instead as it hadn’t healed enough. The nurse then said “one of the team want to see you“, I thought the results would be weeks away but maybe not. The doctor arrived and opened my chart to say “we are 90 per cent certain that this is skin cancer“, there is that 90 per cent again, can no one give a definite answer?.

The conversation between myself and this nice doctor went along the following….. Doctor: do you get sun burn often? Me: No, the odd time on holiday but not all the time. Doctor: when did you last get sun burn? Me: April 2015 when I was in New York (it wasn’t even warm and never imagined I would get sunburnt that day but I did end up with a really red face).

The conversation went on about health and ended with him explaining the situation to me that this type of lesion is usually only seen in people aged 40-50 years of age so at 26 he was worried how young I was getting it, this explains the question about how often I get sunburnt. He then looked at the scar and said they would be sending the sample back to the lab for a third time to try and get a definitive answer on whether it is skin cancer but remember, they are 90 per cent sure! He also checked the rest of my body for similar skin tags or imperfections and said a full check would be required on the next check-up.

I remember walking out of the hospital and being collected by my Dad who felt the force of my attitude as I was not in the humour for any chit-chat or I told you to put sun cream on lectures, I just wanted to get home and process this information. I sobbed like a baby for a few hours, my parents and family worried about the outcome but I had to think positive, maybe that 10 per cent will be on my side.

I returned for my last check up (to date) in November 2016 and the head surgeon and consultant had a note on my file that he wanted to see me personally. When a Junior Doctor says this to you, what else are you supposed to think other than…. “oh crap!

He enters the room and explains that yes, it is skin cancer and they removed it but they can never be sure they got it all so on going check-ups and possible removal of skin samples will be required for at least 2 years. He also says that because of where the incision was done, they could not go as deep as they would have liked, if it was on your arm or back for example they would take a huge chunk to be on the safe side but not near your eye due to the thin skin and amount of nerve endings around the senses.

So, yes my brush with skin cancer has been eventful to say the least and I am praying that it is gone and will not return. I have been left with a nice scar under the eye which is not the most flattering feature to have but I’ve got to get on with it.

I never would have thought that a small pimple-like tag could be so dangerous and the most worrying part, that the cancer was usually only seen in older people, have I aged 20 years or just unlucky? The one thing I will be doing now is keeping a check on any skin tags, moles, skin changes or freckles which may change colour.

On doctors advice they said skin cancer cannot be detected without removal and testing so places who offer skin-mapping or cancer testing without the removal of a piece of skin cannot tell you the accurate truth, although it’s debatable whether the lab in the hospital can either but after three rounds of testing I got the answer I didn’t want but it was definite.

If I could offer one piece of advice after this crazy experience, although I am in no position to do so as I didn’t listen to advice myself about wearing sun screen and protecting yourself, even after my own Grandad went through something similar and friends of the family have gone through other cancer battles, I would encourage everyone to check yourself, whether you think it is nothing or not, a quick check up to your doctor is the only way to go, if they feel it needs removing they are the ones to tell you, not yourself, I have learnt that the hard way.

My eye is now healed and although it hurt like hell at the time, it has settled down, just a bit itchy now and again. Lesson learned and fingers crossed that bridge has well and truly been crossed and never to be revisited!

Written by @Kenneth_Giles

 

 

X FACTOR FINAL – THE LOW DOWN

So this is the weekend we have all been waiting for….. No? Well for some of you, you cannot wait to see the back of the X Factor and for others this is the pinnacle TV event of the year as the Live Final takes to the SSE Arena in Manchester to crown the 2016 champion.

It is now down to the Final 3, Saara Alto (Sharon Osbournes act), 5AM (Louis Walsh’s act) and Matt Terry (Nicole Scherzingers new beau, I mean act). Without doubt I am putting my money in Saara to win as she has been the most consistent contestant this year by far and her performances and vocals are always superb but will the UK viewers allow a Finnish singer to win their talent contest? Or does Simon Cowell see it as a better thing for more publicity throughout the world with a non Brit winning the show? We shall see on Sunday.

Now the Finals are all about one thing, well in the past they were anyway…. The Duets! In the past we have seen BeyoncĂ©, Michael Buble, Robbie Williams and Kylie all team up with finalists to perform in the final and this year there are rumours but no confirmation as of yet that they will be Adam Lambert (American Idol finalist) with Saara, The Weeknd with Matt and Little Mix with 5AM. Skimping a little on the budget this year Simon? And Nicole not singing with her act for the first time in a while but this could all change.

The only real confirmation we have is that Little Mix, Kylie Minogue and The Weeknd will all be on the show performing as guests, this was announced on the X Factor website yesterday. Apart from that and we know the ex contestants will pop up along the way, the rest is an open field really. Could we see a bit of Kylie Christmas on the Final? It is very possible as she is scheduled to perform in the Royal Albert Hall at the exact same time as the Final…. two places a once? Pre-record!

We will have each acts Song Of The Series, their Star Duets and the Song they believe could win the show for them on Saturday night from 8pm on ITV and then on Sunday we will whittle the 3 acts to the Final 2 and hear them both sing the Winners Single which has apparently been penned especially for the winner this year. Then the big announcement as Dermot reveals “the winner is…. (wait 5 minutes) …”

Who do you think will walk away with the title this weekend? And more importantly will they be able to clinch the Christmas No.1 spot?

It all kicks off on Saturday and Sunday 8pm on ITV

Feature by @Kenneth_Giles

December Means Christmas Songs!

So every year I try to hold back from listening to Christmas music until Christmas officially starts and for me that’s….. December 1st!

Ok, so I can’t hide from it totally as they are overplayed from the middle of October in most shopping centres and high streets around the world but now I can put the MTV Christmas channel on, Christmas 24 movies and put up the tree with just 3 weeks to go.

So what are the best Christmas songs? Everyone will go to the obvious Merry Christmas Everyone, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday and even the now rejigged 3 times, Do They Know Its Christmas?, but for me it’s the lesser known ones that excite me.

Here are my top 5 Christmas crackers (go on play them all now!)

1. Kelly Clarkson – Underneath The Tree

2. Michael Buble – Baby Please Come Home

3. COMEDY CLASSIC – Geraldine AKA Peter Kay – Once Upon A Christmas Song

4. GUILTY PLEASURE – Justin Bieber – Mistletoe

5. THE REAL No.1 – Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You

And finally if your looking for a good Christmas playlist to put on in the car and sing away too, then check out the Glee Christmas Album from a few years ago….. its cheesy as hell but festive!

Keep it here on PopOnDown for the latest Christmas fashion trends, music news and entertainment coming soon!

Feature by @Kenneth_Giles