Last weekend was Relay for Life weekend. I was involved as a survivor, team captain and as a member of the committee. The fundraising before the event and on the day has raised £50k for Cancer Research UK with more still coming in. It was a knackering, wet, weekend but was amazing to see so many people getting behind the cause and the event. A huge well done to Lou who was brave enough to take on the huge challenge of bringing the event from an idea to fruition. It’s a privilege to be able to see where this money will get spent as I get more involved in the consumer forum with NCRI.




Jeremy and Alistair

On Tuesday I saw Alistair Campbell at Waterloo station. Today I was on the same site as Jeremy Hunt.

I’ve always quite fancied Alastair Campbell. He writes a cracking novel. I admire his honesty around his alcoholism and battles with mental health. I’m ashamed to say I stared, walked away, turned back and stared again. If he hadn’t been on the phone I’d probably have gone up and said hello.

I know there is something I could say about Jeremy HUNT that fits with the topic of vaginas but I just can’t find the right word……..

Anyhow. I usually spend my time in my rural bubble of bliss and venturing out into the big city is always good. This week I was at the Angel Building, Cancer Research HQ.

A few weeks ago Jane my Macmillan nurse had emailed me the details of a position within the NCRI National Cancer Research Institute. Saying no pressure but I think you’d be good at this. The role was for a consumer member of a clinical studies group for gynaecological cancers. Long story short, I was interviewed, I babbled a lot, told the interviewers my two best attributes were being gobby and feisty and got the role!! More details of this will no doubt follow.

Today I was at Dorchester hospital. I was speaking to a group of 17 year olds who wanted to become doctors. I was a little jealous! They had a 3 day programme of fascinating talks and visits to different specialities in primary and secondary care. My job was to tell them about my patient journey. They were a great group but it saddened me to hear how they were put off following their dream due to cost of tuition fees and tales of workloads from junior doctors.

Just metres away from me Jeremy was having a private visit to the hospital. No general public nor press were allowed. I can’t imagine he ever waits for a train at Waterloo station.

Arse man.

The date’s been looming for a while. Even if I had hid the letter under a big pile. Today was finger up the arse day! The joys. I went in January to see him the first time. I don’t think I wrote about it. I was absolutely full of flu then and just 3 weeks post EUA. At the time I couldn’t understand why he didn’t examine the skin around my anus (this is where the issue is) with ‘magic glasses’ but stuck his finger up my arse. I’m not 100% convinced he knows what he is supposed to be looking for. I told him today that what I really need is an anoscope. But hey what do I know?

Arse man, who is probably a lovely guy, but isn’t yet tuned into me, proceeded to stick various things up my arse. I think he may of thought I was serious when I proclaimed I’d been looking forward to this for weeks. When he told me was just wiping me clean from the lube, I replied with ‘Such service!’ There is no dignity left. None.

He believes I should be ‘extra safe’ and have another examination under anaesthetic and biopsies. Here’s the thing. I don’t want to be extra safe. I want to get on with my bloody life.

I asked him what he would be looking for and what he would do if he found it (Just to make sure he knew really) He said if cancer or pre-cancer was found I’d be referred elsewhere as they don’t have the speciality there to deal with it. What is the point of going there then???

Was rather surprised by the fact that I wasn’t all over him like a rash to get EUA booked in. Said I’d go away and think about it.

Royally pissed off.

Where are the vaginas?

Yesterday I took part in a workshop held at The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. It was a group of around 30 women who were there to discuss what should and shouldn’t be included in the new curriculum for O&G’s.

Bizarrely the first person I spoke to knew the team at Bath. She was involved in the workshop due to being a carrier of the BRCA gene, a gene that is responsible for causing many breast and ovarian cancers. She works for the wonderful Eve Appeal. Definitely a fated meeting! Other women I spoke to were experts in fertility, endometriosis, eptopic pregnancies, menopause and miscarriage, many other experiences were represented. The breadth of O&G services being wide and varied.

It was a very interesting day and we discussed what we wanted our O&G’s to know, do and be like. We debated widely if compassion and caring can be learnt. Where menopuase specialism should sit; general practice or O&G. The lady who I met first said to me at lunch that her group was very ‘Obs heavy’ The experiences of her group members being very firmly concerned with matters of pregnancy and birth, Conversely my group had no one in it whose main areas of experience were in these areas. This, I believe led to a balanced input of what is important to be included in the curriculum.

It was interesting to note that on the RCOG website under Gynae oncology it states cancers of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. If RCOG cant mention cervical, vulval and vaginal how are we going to increase knowledge of 3 of the main gynaecological cancers. I’ve just been offered an interview to be part of a working party for NCRI (National Cancer research Institute) Even their sub group is called ‘Cervical/Vulval’ Where are the vaginas??

There was mention of the importance of calling our genitalia by its proper name and medics doing the same. So why is vagina still apparently a dirty word?

I was surprised to hear that sexual health doesn’t come under the O&G heading. Yep, they’ll help you give birth, help you get pregnant if you can’t, end an unwanted pregnancy, look after your unborn baby, look after your womb and ovaries, your vagina, vulva and cervix but only, it seems, if its not to do with it being used sexually. Contraception/STI’s/psychosexual problems don’t currently come under their remit. Seems a little daft to me. Are we are still in Victorian times where we don’t acknowledge that vaginas are far more often used for sex than giving birth. So many women who suffer long term sexual problems from O&G interventions.

It was interesting to note the portraits of past leaders of the college adorning the walls and the names on wooden plaques were overwhelmingly male….except for a lady called Hilda in the 1940’s. Hilda you are probably long gone but I raised my orange juice to you at lunch! Don’t mistake me for one of the many who believe all O&G’s should be female. I was incredibly lucky to have had excellent care from male consultants. But its clear in my eyes that a speciality that is all about women (and the few transexual members who now identify as men) it clearly needs far more female input.

There was also a lot of talk about being treated holistically. Women who have had various issues that were each treated in isolation rather than seeing if they could be treated as a whole. There was also an overriding consensus that anything O&G related can leave us feeling vulnerable and violated. This can often lead to women avoiding further treatment/examinations. From toddler hood we are taught that this area is private. I think there must be more awareness of how mentally and emotionally challenging O&G interventions are; the longer lasting implications. Many women blame not attending their cervical screening on traumatic births or interventions for example.

Another aspect I feel could be changed is currently the soft skills (rather than the clinical skills) are also assessed by other medical professionals. I strongly believe that this should be done by lay people if not exclusively then collaboratively. Does that assessing tutor really know what it is like to be told you’ve lost a baby, have cancer, need a cesarean, are unlikely to conceive?

I hope the input the college gained from us all will be useful to them.

Now for Foo Fighters at Glastonbury!

Cervical Screening Awareness Week

Yesterday was the start of 2017’s Cervical screening awareness week.

Anyone who has read this blog should know by now the importance of going for your screening. I hope that the training that was delivered in Devon recently results in GP surgeries focusing their efforts in chasing up those many smear dodgers. Further training is in the pipeline for other areas dependant on funding. I’m waiting on feedback on what the surgeries involved in the training put in place for this week and the effect it has.

There are still far too many women not attending their smears. I hope you, or someone you love isn’t one of them. I wont bang on about it, just signpost anyone you know who isn’t attending over here!

I have been selected by RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) to be part of their ‘Specialists of tomorrow insight group’. In a nutshell it is a working group of non medical ‘experts’ who will advise on a revamp of the college’s curriculum. Gynaeoncology is a small part of potential specialists training and there will be many other women there selected to represent various other topics. I will know more next week after I have attended the college in London. It will be great to get my brain working at full speed again and enjoy an overnight stay in London. It’s been far too long.