It’s Killing Us

vagina cliff

On Tuesday I attended a breakfast briefing for the launch of the Eve Appeal’s #GetLippy campaign at The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Representatives of the Press, Public Health England, NHS England and other ‘important people’ were there to hear why the campaign is much needed.

Many gynae cancers are either not prevented or diagnosed early due to embarrassment. Embarrassment about our bodies is literally killing us. One of the members of the panel retold a story of a lady that presented so late with a vulval cancer the tumour had got so big she could no longer sit down. It had been there years. She of course knew it was there but embarrassment stopped her going to the GP. Other panel member. a GP, said that many patients use the term ‘down there’. As there are lots of things ‘down there’ that term needs unpicking by the GP to find where the issue really is. Interestingly both GP’s on the panel said that pubic hair has become almost a rarity in the last 15 years. Why? Is it a coincidence that ovarian cancer receives more attention and funding than the other gynae cancers? Ovaries aren’t really embarrassing are they? Vulvas and vaginas are.

Discussion moved on to the absolute need for better sex education for ALL ages. The sexual landscape is unrecognisable from 20 years ago. Many apps exist to allow no strings attached ‘hook ups’. The internet delivers porn to our and our children’s palms in the tap of a click. Delivering unrealistic images of vulvas, breasts and penises. Delivering unrealistic concepts of what sex is about. As women we are fighting to be taken seriously if we don’t live up to the media and society’s acceptable image of ‘woman’.

For me this campaign is about far more than gynaecological cancer awareness raising. It is about being able, as women and girls to be able to talk about discharge and periods and vulval itches and sex and pubic hair and contraception and sexual preferences. If we can talk about these facts with our friends, our partners, our families in a matter of fact way, we will find it easier to talk to our doctors about when something isn’t right.

I say this as a cervical cancer survivor who has undergone some pretty radical treatment. Treatment that was delayed by my own embarrassment of my body.

If we are going to prevent these cancers we have to change society’s perception that talking about women’s menstrual, physical and sexual reality is taboo.

It’s killing us.










Definition : having special rights, advantages, or immunities.

synonyms: wealthy. rich. affluent. prosperous.

I’ve been talking and thinking a lot about this word in the past few days. We all know the world is not fair. There is a gender pay gap, there is racism (the recent Windrush debacle is truly scandalous) there are major inequalities in health outcomes between the rich and poor, the difference between poor children going to university than their wealthier peers is 16.7 %. Call  me an idealist but I think we can ALL do a little more to make ‘equal opportunities’ just that. Opportunities that are available to everyone, not the priviledged few. Of course that privilege may have been granted through qualifications, experience, contacts, being in the right place at the right time, it is not just about wealth.

I grew up in a rather unique house/location; a police house (aka council house) in one of the wealthiest private roads , in one of London’s wealthiest ‘Surrey Suburbs’. You’d be lucky to find a one bedroom flat under £250k (Just looked make that £280k) in town but you can buy an Aston Martin from the local showroom. By contrast, my childhood was relatively poor, both sets of grandparents having grown up in the London slums. I was the first person ever in my family to go to University (though I had to commute from home) I suppose I would be classed as working class. Now the village nearest to where I live has a high proportion of second/third homes where wealthy Londoners ‘weekend’ . I have a good understanding of the wealth some people possess. Poverty is of course relative, and whilst I have never been wealthy I have taught and supported families where the contrast between my own experience and theirs is equally stark. Even the poorest in the UK have more advantages over the poorest members of other countries.

I’ve accepted that is just the way life is. Some have, some have not.

What I find hard to digest currently is the discrimination within the patient and public involvement sector. The roles within PPI are growing and more and more opportunities are arising. Interesting opportunities with the potential to shape, change, improve and challenge healthcare practices. However, a lot of these positions, whilst requiring time, skills, commitment and energy are not offered with an honorarium.  This means that only people who have the time and do not need the money are likely to apply. Obviously the end result of this is that the people shaping, changing, improving and challenging ideas in Healthcare come from a skewed population base. Is it PPI or PP (for those who can afford to get involved ) I?

Think of the people you know who could give an unpaid regular time commitment to weekday, regular, mostly  London-centric meetings. Then think of the people who couldn’t because they are too busy putting food on the table and a roof over their heads. Then think this. Which kind of people do you want to represent you in discussions about improvements in healthcare? Which kind of people will fight for the NHS remaining free at point of use?





What do you call your Vagina/Vulva?






piss flaps


front bottom

lady garden


privates/private parts

down below

between the legs

hairy mary

beef curtains

morris minor (A pupil once told me that’s what his mum called hers!)

down there

tunnel of love



noo noo/nu nu



wee bum

hoo haa

foo foo/ fu fu  / frou frou

me clout

girl bits








lady purse


Axe wound












frink frink

pee-knuckle (See story in comments)


…… Let me know and I’ll add to the list.




Vadge of Honour

Today is my birthday. I’m still here. Bonus.

The plan was to take my son to Liverpool for the weekend, we both booked the weekend off work weeks ago. After that we realised that it was Grand National weekend and Liverpool were also playing so decided to give it a miss. It’s raining and we are both enjoying a rare chilled out Sunday at home. I may spend some birthday money on one of these! (Thanks Kelly.x)shirt-1477072695-9e0c8bfa35efc4efedc04d449ee32939(1)

Here’s a round up of what’s been going on.

I was selected to step in for a member of the James Lind Alliance Steering Group. The living with and beyond cancer survey has been extended until the 25th April. There has been a great response to it, but certain groups are underrepresented. (Delighted to say that cervical cancer is over represented!) If you fall into one of these groups or know someone who does, give them a nudge to complete the survey. It really is very important and will help shape the future of cancer research. The groups we need to hear from are; males, over 70’s,  people diagnosed over 20 years ago, members of ethnic minorities, and in terms of cancer types, colorectal, prostate, lung and blood cancers.

I have been invited by The Eve Appeal to a breakfast briefing at Royal College of Obs and Gynae where we will be discussing the launch of their new campaign. We are going to #GetLippy on all things Gynae. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been called lippy, gobby, loud, etc so I hope I’ll fit right in there.

I’m trying to get a research idea off the ground. Far easier said than done. Knock backs abound but hey, see above.

I’m off to London again to take part in a workshop surrounding the new Proton Beam Therapy launch in the UK. I got a bit over excited and thought I was actually going to see the machine! I’m not (well at least I don’t think I am) but the workshop will work on how to educate clinicians and the public alike on what Proton Beam Therapy is and how it works. It looks amazing. My Dad died of a brain tumour and the potential for kinder treatment in this area is immense.

A twitter conversation led me to becoming a co-author on the Patients Included charter of ethics for research. Good stuff.

And last but by no means least,  @HearHerHealth. A concept born of frustration. Necessity being the mother of all invention. The concept continues to develop and I have had many, many conversations about this idea in the last 2 weeks. Let’s see where that goes……………







Like Buses

At a meeting one of the fellow attendees said ‘You know what cervical cancer patients are like, you don’t get one for ages then 3 come along at once’ I wasn’t entirely comfortable to be described in this way, but I guess for some, patients are just buses.

My buses are projects and the last 10 days have not seen only 3 buses come my way. It’s more like I’m standing at Victoria coach station on a Friday afternoon.

Exciting times.