The brand new single from Eclipse Stage School to benefit the Irish Cancer Society is here. Download now.
Today marks International Epilepsy Day around the world or ‘Purple Day’ as it is sometimes referred to as epilepsy charities and organisations around the globe ask you to wear something purple to show your support for the condition…… I for one, will NOT be wearing purple today (sorry)!
For me, as someone who lives with epilepsy the past 10 years now, it has been something that has created obstacles in my life but also drove me to work harder and overcome what people said I shouldn’t be doing. I have also seen many false claims and facts about the condition which I will come onto later in this blog post.
Firstly, a bit of a back story on my personal situation which is so minute compared to others I have heard in the past. Roll back to Christmas Day 2007 (I know, the best gift my parents ever got) and we wake up for Christmas presents like every other year but there was a slight difference, I didn’t feel the same as I did the day before. At 17, I had just finished working on some shows as a dancer and choreographer so I was naturally excited for some rest and chill out time over the holiday period, ending up in hospital before my Christmas dinner was not my idea of relaxation.
The morning begun with opening presents as normal, followed by a visit to my Nanny’s house where I was texting on my phone but had no clue who I was texting or why I was pressing buttons, opening the fridge door with no clue what I wanted to get and walking to the bin with nothing to put in it. Even though I was doing ‘stupid’ things, I didn’t once raise the alarm to my family that I felt strange, I’m not quite sure whether I thought I was OK or I didn’t want to alert anyone to the fact that I wasn’t the same as I was the day before.
Christmas dinner is arriving and as we sit at home to start, I begin to prod and poke the mash potatoes with no intention of eating them, I remember my Dad asking was I going to eat that and with a sudden wave of emotion I stormed out of the room to the next room and that is all I remember. What happened next was a full blown (tonic-clonic) seizure, my body went stiff, foaming from the mouth and eyes rolled back in my head but thankfully my brother and father had followed me to the next room realising that I wasn’t myself.
One in 26 people will suffer from some form of epilepsy in their lifetime and mine just happened to begin at 17 and it just so happened to ruin Christmas Day for everyone. I was taken to hospital were I took another seizure and was ‘out of it’ for a whole day, not remembering my name, where I was or who other people were. Once you take more than one seizure you have to be diagnosed with something and for me it was epilepsy. I underwent scans, brain tests and other exams, all of which showed normal but to be safe, I was told I had epilepsy and would begin daily taking of tablets to keep it in check.
My whole life was coming crashing down I believed as I was told I could not drive, needed to relax and take things easy…. I had just started my own business, started driving my own car and was having fun. The no alcohol policy didn’t matter to me as I wasn’t a big drinker anyway and to this day haven’t drank since.
After a few months of feeling down and depressed about how these two seizures could ruin the rest of my life, I worked through it and resumed life as it was. Ok I will admit, I wake every morning thinking ‘is today the day it happens again?’ and every night going to bed saying ‘please don’t let anything happen tomorrow‘ but this is my life now and will be for possibly the rest of my life. I have had one further seizure in 2009 and some days of absence were I can’t think straight or feel a bit mixed up but if I sleep for a day, it usually passes.
Now to a picture I saw posted by a good friend of mine a few days ago on Facebook which was a leaflet given out by teachers in a school to the students to raise awareness for today and how shocked I was at how negative an image it was putting into children’s minds of ‘if you get epilepsy, you’re doomed‘. See picture below:
Look how the side effects of epilepsy are described: no driving, less chance of your dream job and laughed at and bullied…. should children be given this impression of the condition? For me, I now drive like every other person, I have worked hard to achieve my dream job and I can certainly say I have never been laughed at or bullied for having a condition which can affect every single one of us at some stage of life, you are never too old for epilepsy, my Nanny was diagnosed with it the year before she died at the age of 90.
If I had of been given this leaflet in school, it would have terrified me of getting the condition or worse still, if I was a child who had epilepsy and was given this during my school time and read it to myself, I would feel less capable than everyone else who strives to have their dream job. And let’s not start with children being terrified of being bullied because of a condition they have, don’t students already have enough to worry about?
Thankfully all the information sites, leaflets and organisations out there are not this blunt and frankly unprofessional on their approach to this condition, you can find great information and details about helping someone who is having a seizure and tips on first aid for people with epilepsy online.
If you feel like wearing purple today, go for it but that won’t raise the awareness needed among young people and old alike who need to be aware of the symptoms of seizures and epilepsy so why not read this article or share it with a friend so they get a more detailed insight into what it is really like. I will just point out lastly, my epilepsy is nothing compared to some people who live with over 50 seizures per day, they are the real stories you need to hear but this is my part for #InternationalEpilepsyDay .
Do your part today by sharing and talking about Epilepsy with your friends and family.
Written by @Kenneth_Giles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
So I am very particular about my hair, as you will know if you know me or have checked my Instagram before with endless amounts of haircut pictures and styles, so I was a little apprehensive stepping into a new barbershop this week for a new cut and style.
Men’s Hair Co. based in Dun Laoghaire and now with a new shop in Bray is an on-trend salon experience for men with professional stylists and masters in their craft. Creative Director, Jason Brophy opened the first Men’s Hair Co. just 2 years ago and it has gone from strength to strength building a loyal client base and I can see exactly why.
From the modern and stylish look of the shop front to the interior, the minute you step inside you are welcomed by a warm and friendly team of people.
Before I tell you about the experience of the cut, let’s just take a moment to discuss the interior. A very cool and sleek design incorporating wooden finishes with retro objects and lighting, it sets the mood for a great experience. The styling area’s simplistic with amazing lighting design to show off the full extent of the styling really opens up the shop and gives a great inclusive feel to the client. I may just add here that you need to make sure to book in advance, I have never passed this shop without it being packed with men and children alike getting the latest cuts and trends.
So onto the moment I love but also dread, trying to get my vision of what I want across to someone who has never met me before. Thankfully, Jason knew exactly what I was talking about and the style I usually go for. A style that can adapt to both formal events as well as straight out of bed to a studio or class, as well as a style that is easily manageable and to suit me.
After discussing the cut and styling of the new do, Jason got to work and I have to say, he did not leave any detail out, taking his time to ensure it was right at every step of the way and that I was happy as he was going. He even went as far as blow drying it into shape and then having to wet it again to cut more, that is professionalism at its finest that you don’t see in many male salons nowadays.
About 30 minutes later and the result was well worth it, a great cut, nice style and excellent service from the reception to the wash and from the other stylists to the time I left the shop, as well as accommodating someone taking pictures while they were trying to work.
I cannot recommend this team enough and as a barbershop and grooming salon for men, the best I have visited. If you want to be made at ease whether you want a new style or just tidying up your current one, this is the team that will talk you through it and make sure you leave satisfied.
On a side note, they also have their own product range and the strong hold wax used in my hair for styling is brilliant. As my hair is so straight it can be hard to get height and texture but this does the job with added hold and volume. Make sure to get some when you drop in.
The final outcome, a great cut that I am extremely happy with. Cheers Jason and team.
Check out Men’s Hair Co. On Instagram, Facebook and www.menshairco.ie
Review by @Kenneth_Giles
So today marks something pretty special for me. It’s my babies birthday!
Ok so before you all ask WHAT?, no I do not have a secret child. My baby is my business! 9 years ago today was the very first outing for Eclipse Stage School. It’s still quite surreal to say I have a business that has been around that long, but it has been, crazy!
At 17, I finished school with a pretty OK Leaving Cert and attempted not one, not two but three different colleges all in the space of a week, now that is impressive. You have probably guessed it but college was not for me, I had just had 5 years in secondary school and I did not want to go back to a classroom again.
So when I looked at what I could possibly do with my time or where I could go career wise, the only thing that jumped out at me was ‘performing’, the only thing I knew how to do and at this time I had done some minor work with boy bands and girl groups so I knew I could hack it.
I set out to create something very different to what was currently around in a stage school, something a bit more cool, youthful and not too strict (I was 17 remember, a baby!). Flyers went everywhere possible around North Dublin, every letterbox in my area got one and people seemed to like the idea.
The first night, 19th October 2007, was nerve wracking, not knowing if one person would show up but thankfully there was about 20 students on the first night and it went great with High School Musical being the in thing at that time, everyone wanted to be Troy or Gabriella.
I could never of guessed that what started so small 9 years ago would become what it is today and what every student has achieved from performing in Croke Park Stadium to Christmas Toy Show appearances and from backing dancers on the Irish tour of Glee to our very own 13 theatre productions to date. Not to mention our award wins including Best Stage School and Dance Group Of The Year.
Away from the stage school, I have been so grateful to be involved with some of the biggest productions and events not only in Ireland but across the world including New York, Canada and the U.K. from radio to TV and theatre to festivals. Let’s hope the next 9 are just as kind.
This is the real start of the countdown to our biggest celebrations yet in 2017 when we reach the big 10 with a massive theatre show like no other and plenty more surprises along the way 😉
Thank you to everyone who has made Eclipse what it is over the past 9 years, it is down to you all the success we have achieved. Ok, enough of the soppiness!
Back in gear for the 4th annual ShowChoir Ireland Championships in 2 weeks time which we will perform at and I will host and we will keep working away on Ten Years On which takes place in November 2017.
Check out some of the Eclipse highlights at http://Www.youtube.com/user/eclipsestageschool
And at our new website www.EclipseEntertainmentIreland.com
So in a slight change to the normal posts from me on Pop On Down, I have decided to give you all a bit more of an insight into me: what music I like, where I am shopping and generally how good (or bad) my lifestyle is. So each month I will bring you my Monthly Mix of fashion, music, lifestyle and more.
September has been a great month for me in the general scheme of things with a few hiccups along the way but I won’t get caught up on them too much. Here is my pick of the best from September 2016!
Song Of The Moment for me this month is without a shadow of a doubt the return of Scottish songstress Emeli Sande and her new single ‘Hurts’. An instantly catchy song with amazing lyrics and with a voice like hers, how can she go wrong?
Other notable new releases this month for me have all been about the comebacks from Lady Gaga with ‘Perfect Illusion’, Michael Buble’s new single ‘Nobody But Me’ and Robbie Williams quite strange comeback with ‘The Heavy Entertainment Show’.
Shop Of The Month is a hard one for me as I like clothes so much I shop in practically every good men’s fashion retailer in Dublin most week’s but this month it is safe to say that Pull & Bear (online store and Henry Street, Dublin) has been my go to place. They have had an ongoing sale this month with many items up to 50% off and I have bought most of them as you can tell from my Instagram feed….. whoops!
Just to give you a brief insight to my one month clothing turnover, here is my delivery from Pull & Bear online mid-month:
From their sport trainers to joggers and denims to tee’s, they have you covered for virtually all occasions and they are super helpful with exchanges when you buy something and it doesn’t quite fit how you imagined…. ok, ok when you buy smaller than what you are! No hassle, swap or refund straight away. Props to P&B for their cool staff.
I will also be bringing you trends and fashion insight every week now from stores including Pull &Bear, H&M, River Island, Topman, Bershka, Forever 21 and the one we all love (even if you pretend you don’t shop there) Penneys!
TV Choices have to be the obvious talent show TV for me, Strictly, X Factor and even Bear Grylls Celebrity Island is bearable right now (see what I did there?). TV series of the month for me is the almighty comeback of Cold Feet, which I will point out is almost as good as the first time around and that is hard to do.
My Lifestyle Snapshot has been a varied bag this month from work to personal life. September always kicks off the busiest time for me with work but this year just seem’s even more so but in a really good way.
In short, I am producing ShowChoir Ireland Live Final on November 5th as well as presenting the show with my amazing friend Saoirse Long (FM104), choreographing two Christmas pantomimes, creative directing and choreographing the Eclipse tenth anniversary show for 2017 as well as running a blog, a business and a body (yikes).
My own life has been eventful these past few weeks having lost my Grandmother (Nanny Annie) in August suddenly as well as undergoing a small procedure to remove a lesion from my eye which is a whole other blog post to come I’m sure. It is true what they say though, live every day as if it is your last and be grateful for what you have because there is far worse out there.
So in general it hasn’t been half bad to be honest, good music, good shopping, good work, good personal life (with the few exceptions) and I’m happy which is the main thing.
Over the next few weeks you will see some changes around Pop On Down as I expand the blog into men’s health, grooming, fashion and lifestyle as well as keeping the music, entertainment and TV side of things going.
Also, if you want something featured or maybe you know an awesome band that deserve to be talked about, let me now at email@example.com