Mental Health

#TimeToTalk – Mental Health Awareness

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Despite how far conversation and medical support have come when it comes to mental health there is still a taboo surrounding it. People are discriminated against, too afraid and embarrassed to speak out and then when people are brave enough to speak out they are often let down by those they confide in. Mental health can be complex and mental illness can affect anyone, at any age and at any time. #TimeToTalk is where people share their personal accounts with mental illness and encourage those who are struggling to seek help but it is also a time to support and congratulate those who are doing well in their recovery. 

I was 11 when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. There is a big difference between feeling fed up, trapped in a situation and lonely compared to depression and while we as a society are doing well in encouraging people to speak out and seek help, I fear we are becoming a society that self diagnoses and unfortunately uses mental illness’ as excuses to not do things and for attention.

I was a very happy, outgoing and bubbly child. I had lots of friends and my dream was to be a singer so I snapped up and often created any chance I had to perform for people.

Where It Began

Depression hit me when my Granddad passed away when I was 10. He had been unwell for many years and Dementia had taken hold of him, I don’t remember him as he was, only in a quiet non-emotive state. Being young you’re not told of the severity of someones illness and I had no clue that he was dying. One day we went to visit him in the Peace Hospice and we were sat in the residential garden, the Sun was shining and I was in my own little bubble listening to a CD on my portable CD player with oversized headphones while my parents sat on a bench with my Granddad, I didn’t pay him much attention, instead I was daydreaming of singing on a stage and thinking of how amazing it would be to sing my own songs one day. When it was time to leave we all went inside and took my Grandad to his room, my parents said goodbye but I skipped ahead to the exit knowing we’d be coming after school the next day.

The next day, after school I was on the coach home and I saw my parents at a different stop to the one I usually got off at and I knew instantly my Granddad had died but I tried to convince myself I was wrong. I got off and I knew Mum had been crying, I asked Dad what had happened and he was reluctant to answer. I remember crying and looking up at the coach to see all of the school children staring back at me and just wanting to go back in time to a few minutes before I knew, wanting to go back to the day before and pay attention to my Granddad and give him a hug and tell him I loved him but I would never get that chance. The darkness set in immediately, it was more than grief and it was too overwhelming to comprehend. If I’m honest I don’t remember much after my Grandad passed away because of the severity of my mental health but I know I went to a therapy sessions which were useless as I continued to struggle after they stopped. I remember one in particular, I was sat on a big pink sofa with my Mum and she was crying and she asked the therapist ‘what do I say to her when she tells me she wants to die?’ that is all I can remember but it stayed with me, from that day on I refused to admit to my Mum that I wanted to die.

In the picture above I look so happy on my last day of primary school but actually I felt very suicidal and overwhelmed with the changes that had happened and were about to happen. A lot changed for me, I had lost my Granddad which made me very physically and mentally unwell. I developed IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome brought on by grief and stress would flair it up. All of this put an irreversible strain on my family as I was missing a lot of school which also resulted in losing friendships just as I moved up to secondary school. My younger Brother Daniel had to watch me go through all of this as well as experience, and be effected by, all of the family fall out that came with it and I can only apologise that he had to go through it and helplessly watch me decline and our family fall apart.

When I moved up my health got worse, I was bullied and months at a time of school were missed. 

Secondary School

When I started secondary school I stopped eating because I was scared I’d be unwell and I felt like I didn’t deserve to eat but looking back I’m not sure why. I know I disliked myself but part of it was also down to feeling so low that I couldn’t bring myself to prepare anything or push myself to eat any food put in front of me. I wouldn’t eat anything until I got home at 5pm as I didn’t want to risk being unwell and school, not that it helped much as I was unwell either way. My relationship with food still isn’t perfect and I tend to over analyse what I eat and when I eat.

I continued to have therapy and family counselling was advised but it never took place. I continued to feel suicidal and planned to take my life many times. My physical health deteriorated and as a teenager I weighed just 5 stone and wore clothes aged 11-12. Apart from IBS I found out nearly 10 years after going to the Doctors for help that I also have stage 3 Endometriosis and when I was finally diagnosed I broke down and wished so desperately that I could tell my younger self that I was right. So many Doctors told me that my  physical illness’ were all in my head or that I was pretending to be unwell as I didn’t want to go to school but actually it was the opposite, I enjoyed school and why would I want to deprive myself of an education ?!

I had a social worker and numerous CAMHS workers and I just feel I was massively let down by them. They never took the time to actually understand me or my issues and only went by what Doctors and therapists said which was a load on nonsense. I was made out to be a dramatic girl who made out situations were worse than they were and that everything was in my head and I had no physical illness, despite being on medication for IBS as well as medication for my mental illness’.

I closed myself off and made out I was better than I was. I said what I thought they’d want to hear and when I did desperately try to ask for help for bullying and issues at home I was shut down or outed to my school and my family. My school said they couldn’t do anything about the bullying because I ‘wasn’t in often enough’ and my issues at home which were more serve than the ones at school were swept under the carpet.

My school attendance and mental health got so bad that I was to be put in an in-patient education centre. The constant ‘its all in your head’ remarks from Doctors, my school and even members of my family made me believe I was more unwell than I actually was and that entering a psychiatric unit where I would also gain an education was a good option. My family and I looked around the facility and had meetings with the people who ran it. The children in the unit had far more complex mental illness’ than I did and there was just no way it should have been suggested for myself. I was accepted and all ready to go when on the morning I was meant to go my Dad stopped it all from happening. At the time I was very upset as I thought that going there was the only chance I had of ‘curing myself‘ but not going was the best desicion for me.

Off To College

When I started secondary school I was a young girl who although felt suicidal also hoped that moving up would be a new and happier chapter in my life but it was 5 years of absolute hell. I never had real friendships and was bullied online and told to kill myself. I left school with only 3 GCSE’s as I had missed too much time to take part in my other exams and I had lost all of my confidence and was a nervous wreck, a shell of a person who was very much underweight and still suicidal.

I had always wanted to be a singer and I used to write my own lyrics but as my depression took hold it all became just a dream. Had I had the confidence I would have chosen a Performing Arts course at college but instead I chose Child Care and Early Years. 

I actually did quite well in college and although my anxiety made me cry most days I slowly gained confidence and began to make friends. Out of the friendships I made I am only in regular contact with one of them. My friend Leanne has been such an amazing and integral part of my mental illness recovery.

My Lowest Point

In 2013, during my second year of college I really wasn’t coping with my depression and while I had been on different anti-depressants in the past I wasn’t taking anything at this moment in time. I found that I always had side effects so I was always wary to take them. I went to my Doctor and told her how I felt and she gave me another anti-depressant to try, and quite frankly it had disastrous consequences. 

I plummeted into a depression I never knew I could experience, I felt every emotion and nothing all at the same. I would call my Mum into my room in the early hours hysterically crying, trying to explain that I wanted to die but I couldn’t just come out and say it as 11-year-old me had sworn to never tell her again. I went through stages of sleeping all the time to not sleeping at all, over eating to not eating at all and this went on for a while.

In the early hours one night I had an overwhelming urge to take my own life. I sat there for a couple of hours thinking there was no way out of that feeling and that it was the only thing I could do. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and go mad and destroy everything in my room but I still I sat in silence in a colourless existence ready to attempt to end my life. Instead another idea came into my head and I began to self harm, I thought if I could get the emotion and the hurt out of me then maybe I would feel a relief of some kind and I did but only for a very short time and then the shame set in and a ‘what the fuck am I doing?!’ mentality. 

All I hear when it comes to mental illness is speak up, share how you feel, seek help and I  did right away, just to the wrong person. I confided in a girl in my college class who I had become really close with. I messaged her to say that I didn’t know what was going on with me but that I needed help and that I came the closest I ever had to taking my own life but instead had self harmed. She had always said to me ‘you can always tell me anything, I’ll help in any way I can’ and that is what I had in my head when I confided in her, big mistake. She was no help and even went as far to say that I was bringing her down a few weeks later despite only telling her how I was feeling when she asked me. I said if you don’t actually want to know the truth about how I’m feeling then don’t bloody ask. 

As I had had therapy from the age of 11 I had become a very honest person and hadn’t learnt that sometimes I needed to keep a little bit back so I didn’t leave myself venerable and get myself hurt. I learnt this the hard way over the years and still unfortunately do it now from time to time. Perhaps I’m doing that now writing this.

I tried my hardest to repair the friendship but she turned so childish and either completely ignored me or spoke very little to me in person a few times when I tried to speak to her and it honestly broke me. I still feel a guilt for some bizarre reason, if I had never told her how I felt we’d still be friends, and while I know none of it was my fault at all it hurts me to think that she just dropped me so easily.

I later told my Mum what I had done and she was amazing, as always. I stopped taking that medication and tried my hardest to fight my suicidal tendency and self harm urges but I struggled for 2 years with self harm and still get the urges now whenever I feel low or frustrated, its like my brain re-wired itself to choose that as an outlet instead of something less self-destructive.

In mid 2013 I briefly dated a boy I had gone to secondary school with and really I was in no mental state to enter a relationship but I hoped it would be good for me. It lasted a couple of months and he ended it by text saying he felt he liked me better as a friend and I just felt so used and dirty. I began self harming again and after college gave up  on myself completely and didn’t leave the house.

Housebound

Time was passing quickly and my anxiety worsened. I felt suicidal again and called my Doctor and asked her for help. I told her that I couldn’t leave the house and that I had stored up my anti-depressants and that I felt that I was on the brink of taking an overdose. She told me that she’d call me in two weeks to see how I was doing but to call 999 if I felt I was at risk of harming myself. My anxiety made me think that I couldn’t take my life because my Doctor would be phoning me in two weeks and I wouldn’t want to let her down. Two weeks passed and I sat anxiously with my phone waiting for her to call but she never did and that was at the end of 2015.

I wasn’t keeping track of how long I was staying in for but towards the end I was housebound for 9 months and then again for 2 months. The whole time I was housebound Leanne kept me in contact with the outside world and when I did leave the house for the first time in 9 months she was the first person I called and I cried when she told me how proud she was of me. While I was at home Leanne told me about her friend Jack and that when I’m able to get out that she’d want me to meet him and even said we’d make a great couple.

A New Start

2016 was the year everything changed for me. I had slowly started to get out of the house in 2015 and venerate into town with Mum closely by my side. I met up with my friend Josh a few times and cried when I left Watford to meet him as I was so anxious but Josh and I had become quite close and he, like Leanne, kept me in contact with the outside world and was someone I could confide in. 2015 soon passed but I still wasn’t leaving the house much. At the start of 2016 I tried really hard to leave the house and focused on being well enough to celebrate my birthday in April with friends.

In April I wanted to meet Leanne and our friend from college Sam for my birthday and with Mum accompanying me I even went and got my nose pierced !! As time went on and I felt a bit more comfortable going places and Leanne suggested a girl’s night at her house. I hadn’t left Watford for over a year and I was so anxious but excited too, Mum and I even made a cake for me to take. Once there Leanne suggested we nip to Tesco to get some food but I wanted to stay at hers with her dog Bella but I went anyway and thank god I did as that is where I met Jack for the first time. Leanne got to scheming right away and demanded he come to the pub in a weeks time and he agreed. I didn’t want to go to the pub but I knew I wanted to see Jack agin so I went and we awkwardly sat next to each other and didn’t say much that night but he messaged me on Facebook and we spoken for days and I kept forcing myself to go to the pub to see him. Fast forward and in June we will be celebrating 3 years together !!

I was very honest with Jack about my issues and expected him to leave me too but he never has and has never judged me for anything that I have been through. He has loved me in a way nobody ever has and while love can’t cure my depression it definitely pulled me from a very dark place. I have struggled throughout our relationship but he has always given me the support I need and I would be lost without him.

As I’d been able to leave the house, reconnect with friends and make new ones and find myself a boyfriend I thought I’d jump right in the deep end and get myself a job too !!

I started working for Lush Watford in August 2016 as a Christmas temp. I struggled with my anxiety, lacked a lot of confidence and would often cry on my way to work thinking I’d made a huge mistake and took on a job too soon but didn’t want to let anyone down so stuck with it and I’m so glad I did. The staff there are amazing and although the team has changed a lot over the years, new amazing people have continued to join and their support has helped me through so many difficult times.

How Am I Now?

I entered 2019 feeling very low, lots of events had taken place in a short space of time and my mind couldnt cope and pretty much shut down. I was signed off for a month and I’m just getting back into the swing of being back at work but I’m not doing as well as I’d like and wish I had more time to sort myself out but I need the money and I need to stay active. I barely left the house when I was signed off and felt myself slipping back into a comfort zone that my anxiety had created for me years before. Work gives me a reason to leave the house and surrounds me with good people who will always help me.

Endometriosis can make it difficult and sometimes impossible to have children. Finding this out was hard enough but to be told I have low Ovarain reserve and an AMH level of 10 has been something that still doesnt seem real. I go through stages of high emotion and devastation feeling trapped and that I wont ever be a Mum and then I’ll think, if its meant to be it’ll happen. I’ve always wanted to be a Mother and as a child I spent years in my room thinking of a better future and hoping I’d still be alive to one day have a family of my own so the thought that it might never happen is something I’m still trying to come to terms with.

I’m proud of how far I have come. I am a strong person who is very resilliant and strives for a better future. The events of my childhood will always haunt me and still have an impact on my life today but its not about what happened, its about how I deal with it and how I let it impact my life now.

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Health and Awareness

Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

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Today is the beginning of Cervical Cancer prevention week and so I feel it is important to bring attention to this horrendous disease and hopefully encourage people to become aware of signs, symptoms and to keep up with any check ups such as smear tests. About 3,000 cases of Cervical Cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK and 2 Women lose their lives everyday to this disease but with the NHS offering Cervical screenings it is said that as many as 5,000 lives are saved each year in the UK. 

The information I am posting is from the NHS UK website and the NHS Cervical Screening: Helping you decide booklet. There is information from what Cervical Cancer is, the symptoms, what a smear test is and the whole process to getting results and the treatments offered. I hope that by putting it all on one page that it will be more helpful and easier to understand.

Below will also be two stories, one of Jade Goody’s and the other is of Jo Maxwell who the Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is in memory of. All of the information has been sourced from Newspapers and from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust website. Their stories have really touched me and my thoughts are with their families. The legacy that they leave behind and the awareness their passings and family have raised will have saved lives and for that I, as I’m sure many other Women will be, eternally grateful. 

What Is Cervical Cancer?
Cervical Cancer happens when cells in the Cervix grow in an uncontrolled way and form a lump, also called a tumour. Although this develops in a Woman’s Cervix which is the entrance to the Womb from the Vagina, cells can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. It mainly affects Women between the ages of 30 and 45 years old who are sexually active but just because you don’t fit the age group does not mean you’re not at risk.

What Are The Causes?
Upon research I learnt that almost all cases of Cervical Cancer are caused by something called HPV which stands for Human Papilloma Virus. Apparently this is a common virus that can be passed on through any type of sexual contact with a Man or a Woman. It is spread during sex and other types of sexual activity such as skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas or using sex toys and it is said that most Women will get some type of HPV infection at some point in their lives. With more than 100 types of HPV, many are harmless but some types can cause changes to the cells of the Cervix, which can eventually lead to Cervical Cancer. In most cases your immune system can get rid of the virus without you ever knowing you had it but sometimes HPV infections can cause cells in your Cervix to become abnormal. Again, usually your body can get rid of abnormal cells and your Cervix returns to normal but sometimes this doesn’t happen and the abnormal cells can develop into Cancer. HPV 16 and HPV 18, are known to be responsible for most cases of Cervical Cancer but as they don’t have any symptoms Women will not realise they have it. High-risk types of HPV are thought to stop the cells from working normally, which can eventually cause them to reproduce uncontrollably, leading to the growth of a cancerous tumour.

Risk factors of developing Cervical Cancer are:
– Smoking – Women are twice as likely to develop Cervical Cancer than those who do not smoke; this may be because of the harmful effects of chemicals found in tobacco on the cells of the Cervix
– Having a weakened immune system
– Taking the oral contraceptive pill for more than 5 years
– Having more than 5 children, or having them at an early age (under 17 years old)
– Your Mother taking the hormonal drug Diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant with you

The reason for the link between Cervical Cancer and childbirth is unclear but one theory is that the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy may make the Cervix more vulnerable to the effects of HPV.

Using condoms during sex offers some protection against HPV, but it cannot always prevent infection because the virus is also spread through skin-to-skin contact of the wider genital area.

Since 2008, the HPV vaccine has been offered to girls aged 12 and 13.

What Are The Symptoms?
There are often no symptoms in the early stages and if you do have any symptoms, the most common is abnormal Vaginal bleeding. This can occur during or after sex, between periods, or bleeding after you have been through the Menopause. These types of  bleeds don’t automatically mean you have Cancer, but you should see your GP as soon as possible to get it checked to be on the safe side.

Other symptoms of Cervical cancer consist of:
– Pain and discomfort during sex,
– Unusual or unpleasant Vaginal discharge,
– Pain in your lower Back or Pelvis.

More advanced symptoms, including symptoms of cancer that has spread:
– Severe pain in your side or back caused by your Kidneys
– Constipation
– Peeing or pooing more often than normal
– Losing control of your Bladder (urinary incontinence) or losing control of your Bowels (bowel incontinence)
– Blood in your pee
– Swelling of one or both Legs
– Severe Vaginal bleeding

What Is A Cervical Screening – Smear Test?
Prevention is key and thats exactly what this blog post and awareness week is all about. I recently received a letter inviting me to attend a Cervical screening. The NHS Cervical Screening Programme invites all women between the ages of 25 to 64 years old to attend a cervical screening. Women aged 25 to 49 are offered a screening every 3 years and those aged 50 to 64 are offered screening every 5 years but please do not wait if you believe at any point during this time if you could have Cervical Cancer. Smear tests prevent 75% of Cervical Cancers so although it may be embarrassing or for some even uncomfortable it is worth it, your life is worth it !!

The Cervical screening test usually takes around 5 minutes to carry out and will usually take place at your local GP surgery.  You’ll be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on a couch. If you’re wearing a loose skirt you can usually remain fully dressed and just remove your underwear. The doctor or nurse will gently put an instrument called a speculum into your vagina, this holds the walls of the vagina open so the Cervix can be seen. A small soft brush will be used to gently collect some cells from the surface of your Cervix. Some Women find the procedure a bit uncomfortable or embarrassing, but for most Women it isn’t painful however if you do make sure you tell the doctor or nurse as they may be able to reduce your discomfort but taking slow, deep breaths might help. If  you’re feeling anxious you can also bring someone to the appointment with you if you need support. Try to relax as much as possible as being tense makes the test more difficult to carry out.

The cell sample is then sent off to a laboratory for analysis and you should receive the result within 2 weeks. The small sample of cells that are taken from the cervix are checked under a microscope for abnormalities. In some areas, the screening sample is first checked for HPV which is the virus that can cause abnormal cells. An abnormal test result does not mean you definitely have Cancer, most abnormal results are due to signs of HPV, the presence of treatable precancerous cells, or both. This is all about prevention and treating the abnormal cells will help prevent them developing into Cancer.

Booking Your Test
A letter will be posted to you asking you to make an appointment for a cervical screening test. The letter should contain the details of the place you need to contact for the appointment. If possible, try to book an appointment during the middle of your menstrual cycle (usually 14 days from the start of your last period), as this can ensure a better sample of cells is taken and it is best to make your appointment for when you don’t have your period. If you use a spermicide, a barrier method of contraception, or a lubricant jelly you shouldn’t use these for 24 hours before the test, as the chemicals they contain may affect the test.

Results
A Cervical screening isn’t a test for Cancer but to check the health of the cells of the Cervix. Most Women’s results show that everything is normal, about 94 out of 100. As said previously, some abnormal changes in the cells of the Cervix won’t lead to Cervical Cancer and the cells may go back to normal on their own. But in some cases, the abnormal cells need to be removed so they can’t become cancerous. There are two types of slightly abnormal cells and these are known as borderline changes and low-grade Dyskaryosis. If you have slightly abnormal cells your sample will be tested for the HPV types that can cause Cancer and if you have very abnormal cells known as high-grade Dyskaryosis you will be offered a Colposcopy. If no HPV is found, you’ll carry on being routinely screened as normal. If your sample shows more significant cell changes, you’ll be referred for Colposcopy without HPV testing. 

Trans men who still have a cervix and are still registered as female with a GP will also be invited for cervical screening. Trans men who are registered as male will need to let a GP or Practice Nurse know so they can organise the test.

What Is A Colposcopy?
A Colposcopy is a test to see how much of your Cervix contains abnormal cells and this is  usually carried out in a Hospital clinic and it takes about 15-20 minutes and you can go home the same day. Similar to having a smear test, you undress from the waist down, lie down in a special type of chair with padded supports for your leg and a speculum is inserted into your vagina and gently opened. A microscope with a light is used to look at your cervix but this doesn’t touch or enter your body. Special liquids are applied to your cervix to highlight any abnormal areas and a small sample of tissue (a biopsy) may be removed for closer examination in a laboratory, this may be a bit uncomfortable. If it’s obvious that you have abnormal cells in your Cervix, you may have treatment to remove the cells immediately. If this isn’t clear, you’ll need to wait until you get your biopsy results.

About 4 out of 10 women have no abnormal cells and are advised to continue attending Cervical screening as usual and about 6 out of 10 women have abnormal cells in their Cervix and may need treatment to remove them. Your doctor or nurse may use the term CIN or CGIN when discussing your biopsy result. This is this medical name for abnormal cells. It is followed by a number, for example, CIN 1 and that indicates the chances of the cells becoming Cancerous. A higher number means a higher risk of cancer developing if the cells aren’t removed.

Types Of Colposcopy Treatments
As I explained, if it is obvious that you have abnormal cells you may be treated at the time of your Colposcopy but some treatments cannot be carried out on the same day.

The aim of treatment is to remove the abnormal cells while minimising damage to healthy tissue. Usually an area about the size of a fingertip is removed.

LLETZ:
This is the most common treatment and LLETZ stands for Large Loop Excision of the Transformation Zone. It involves removing the abnormal cells using a thin wire loop that’s heated with an electric current, this can be carried out at the same time as a Colposcopy and is usually done while you’re awake but local anaesthetic is injected into your Cervix to numb it during the treatment. This doesn’t usually need an overnight stay in hospital. LLETZ is also called loop diathermy, loop cone, loop biopsy or loop excision.

Cone Biopsy:
A cone biopsy is done less often than LLETZ and it is a minor operation to cut out a cone-shaped piece of tissue containing the abnormal cells. This only tends to be used if a large area of tissue needs to be removed and this can’t be done at the same time as a colposcopy. It is usually done under general anaesthetic where you’re asleep and may require an overnight stay in hospital.

Other Treatments:
– Cryotherapy – the abnormal cells are frozen and destroyed and this is only used to treat minor cell changes
– Laser treatment – a laser is used to pinpoint and destroy abnormal cells on your Cervix
– Cold Coagulation – a heat source is applied to the cervix to burn away the abnormal cells
– Hysterectomy (removal of the womb) – this will only be considered if abnormal cells on your Cervix have been found more than once, if they’re severely abnormal, you’re past childbearing age, or you don’t want to have more children

After you treatment you will be advised to: 
– Avoid driving for at least 24 hours if you have had a general anaesthetic but if a local anaesthetic was used you can drive straight away.
– Tampons shouldn’t be used for four weeks and sanitary pads should be used instead.
– Sex should also be avoided for four weeks
– Exercising, including swimming, for at least two weeks, or while there’s still any bleeding or discharge

You’ll also be advised to have another Cervical screening test six months after treatment. If HPV isn’t found, you won’t need to be screened again for another three years. But if HPV or significant cell changes are found, you’ll be referred for another Colposcopy.

Risks and Side Effects
There are some side effects from these treatments. Please talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any concerns or would like to know more about the potential risks. 

Common Side Effects:
– Mild pain, similar to period pain – this should pass in a few hours and can be relieved with Paracetamol or Ibuprofen.
– Light vaginal bleeding and brown, watery vaginal discharge which may last up to four weeks.

There’s also a small risk of more serious complications, such as:
– An infection – this can cause heavy or persistent bleeding, smelly vaginal discharge and persistent tummy pain; see your GP if you have these symptoms.
– In future pregnancies there is a slight increased risk of premature birth before the 37th week of pregnancy. This is more likely if you need repeated treatments or a lot of tissue needs to be removed. 

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Jade Goody’s Story
Jade Goody sadly lost her battle with Cervical Cancer in 2009 aged just 27 years old. In the year after her death the number of Women aged 25-29 asking for a smear test shot up by a third which means an extra 37,000 women in their late 20s were being tested.

Jade was just 15 when abnormal cells were first found and removed from her Cervix. This is rare but I still believe no matter how slim the chances, if you are having issues you should push to be tested as a precaution. 

In August 2008 Jade was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer and revealed that she had had abnormal cells removed 3 times in the past and admitted to ignoring a letter saying abnormal results had been found from a smear test a 4th time, because she was scared to go back to the hospital. 

In the past Jade suffered with an Ovarian Cyst, miscarriages and had been hospitalised numerous times due to collapsing experiencing stomach pains and in the month she was diagnosed she was hospitalised after collapsing and losing blood. Experiencing all of this I can sympathise with her and why she would be scared to go back to Hospital.

Despite undergoing a Hysterectomy in September 2008 and starting Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy, Jade then discovered the Cancer was at an advanced stage. In January 2009 Jade had to have emergency treatment for a Kidney blockage and in February 2009 started an experimental drug called Topotecan as she had been told that the Chemotherapy hadn’t worked as well as Doctors would have hoped and at the end of February, she’s admitted to a hospice after suffering hallucinations caused by her medication. In March 2009 a golfball-sized tumour that was causing her pain was removed from her Bowel and sadly on the 22nd March in the early hours Jade sadly passed away at home, it was Mothers Day.

Jade’s open battle brought awareness to Cervical cancer to many, especially my generation but as we approach the 10year anniversary of her death I worry that the severity of the disease will be forgotten about and that people have a ‘it won’t happen to me’ mentality because they’ve had numerous clear test results.

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Jo Maxwell’s Story
Jo Maxwell lost her battle with Cervical Cancer in 1999 at the age of 40. Jo felt that her diagnosis was due to a combination of factors; her admission to having little knowledge about the causes and symptoms of Cervical Cancer, her reluctance to challenge medical advice as well as inadequate screening and medical advice.

For Jo symptoms began two years after the birth of her third child 1992. She began to experience bleeding in-between periods and following a consultations with her GP, she was advised to give up coffee. Weeks had passed and her bleeding had continued but Jo now had headaches and significant abdominal pain. Jo was referred to a private gynaecologist and he recommended that she came off the contraceptive pill. There wasn’t much improvement in her condition, so Jo and her husband concluded that the low moods Jo experienced during her periods were delayed post-natal symptoms and so did not challenge the medical advice.

In July 1995, a friend’s insisted that Jo made an appointment with different private gynaecologist which she did and he sent Jo for a scan. It is after this scan that Jo sadly learnt she had primary Cervical Cancer. Further tests revealed that the Cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and this meant that there was a risk of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body. Because of this Jo had a radical hysterectomy and lymph node removal two weeks after diagnosis.

Following her surgery, Jo had a course of radiotherapy to the pelvic region together with a course of chemotherapy in an attempt to destroy all traces of the Cancer. After three months of radiotherapy and three months of chemotherapy, Jo became well enough to lead a normal life but sadly this only lasted twelve months.

In July 1997, Jo began to experience severe back pain which she initially thought was due to tearing a muscle whilst carrying suitcases on holiday. At this stage, Jo endured four months of pain due to inadequate scans but in November 1997 was referred to an Irritable Bowel Specialist who carried out a scan to find out the the cause of the persistent back pain. The results were devastating and Jo learnt that the cancer had spread to her Lungs and Liver. It was also found in her spine and was the cause of her severe back pain.

Jo later discovered that her Cancer was metastatic which meant that it had spread from the original Cervical site, through the lymph nodes and into her bloodstream and could appear anywhere at any time.  Jo and her family were told that there was no cure for the disease at this stage and that it was terminal. Jo was told that she would have twelve months.

James, Jo’s husband, spent many hours researching for information on the internet which, at this time, was still in its infancy. He was looking for information, case histories and hope. Information in the UK was minimal and American websites held little more. This search was something that would inspire James in the initial direction of the Jo’s Trust website.

Jo and James celebrated Christmas 1997 in the firm belief that it would be Jo’s last, and that she would not live for many months after. However, in January 1998, James was put in touch with Dr Charles Young, a leading gynaecological cancer specialist in New York. He reviewed Jo’s medical history and suggested an experimental treatment not available then on the NHS. This involved the intravenous administration of Taxol and Carboplatin (combined), given in a mild dose on a weekly basis. Jo’s Doctor, Dr Harper, agreed to the course of treatment and persuaded BUPA to fund it.

Jo enjoyed a partial remission following the administration of the Taxol/Carboplatin combination and by March 1998, Jo was able to travel abroad on holiday and, by May, was leading an almost completely normal life with her husband, children and family. This continued until November 1998 when she became allergic to the Carboplatin element of the treatment, leaving the Taxol to work on its own. By Christmas 1998, the cancer had returned and, during January 1999, Jo had further radiotherapy to her chest and back.

Sadly, Jo’s health deteriorated rapidly between the end of February and April 1999. By then, the cancer had spread to her liver. During these latter stages of her life, she had good palliative care (pain control) from Dr Harper and the nurses at The London Bridge Hospital and The Trinity Hospice at Clapham in South London.

On April 25th 1999, Jo was given just three weeks to live. On Friday April 30th, she was sitting in the garden surrounded by family and friends, but by Saturday evening May 1st, Jo’s courageous battle was nearly at an end. She died peacefully in the early hours of Monday May 3rd of liver failure at home surrounded by her very close family. 

How Can You Help Raise Awareness?
I know this post has been very full on but I don’t think it should be any other way as this is a post about a serious issue. This post isn’t going anywhere so this information can be read at your leisure and whenever you like. If this post can help educate and bring awareness to others then that is all I can hope for. 

You can help raise awareness by:
– Talking to others about Cervical Cancer
– Encouraging others to keep up with their smear tests.
– Share this, who knows it may even help save someones life.
– Post on your own social media accounts sharing personal stories
– Join in with the #SmearForSmear campaign which is where you post a picture or a video of yourself wearing smeared lipstick along with a fact about Cervical Cancer.

A lot of effort has gone into this post, I really wanted to get it right and put down all of the relevant information. If there is anything that I have missed please let me know and I will edit my post accordingly.

Vegan Posts

The Humble Co – Humble Brush

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Did you know that 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes are produced every year? Devastatingly the majority of these will end up being sent to landfill or find their way into our Oceans. 

I have wanted to find a non-plastic toothbrush for a while to help me cut down on my usage of plastic. I am very conscious about this anyway and have already made permanent changes. My Mum recently saw this Bamboo toothbrush from The Humble Co. in our local Morrison’s and bought it for me. She saw the Vegan symbol and was excited to give it to me when she got home.

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Upon reading the box this toothbrush came in, which is made from recycled materials and has an inside paper wrapper that is compostable, I discovered that this isn’t your average toothbrush. The Humble Co. are based in Sweden and its oral care products are designed and manufactured under the guidance and supervision of Dentists. Their toothbrushes are made in China and their toothpaste and chewing gum are made in Germany. The Humble Brush has a handle made from 100% biodegradable and sustainably sourced Bamboo. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on Earth and it is naturally antibacterial which means no fertilisers or pesticides are used during its cultivation. The Bamboo is surface treated with natural wax which improves the grip and hygienic properties of   the toothbrush. Its bristles are made from Nylon, Nylon-6 to be exact, because it has a lower hardness and a lower water absorption which is good for your teeth and keeping your brush hygienic compared to other types of Nylon. As Bamboo is a natural material the appearance may change over time. The portion of the Bamboo which goes into your mouth may appear lighter and fade, this is normal and will not affect your brushing experience.

What About The Pandas?! – The Humble Co. say ‘Our MOSO-bamboo grows leaves from 5 metres and up. Since pandas only eat leaves they can reach, they don’t eat the bamboo we use. We are super “panda-friendly”!’

Disposing of your Humble Brush – ‘The bristles can be recycled after being easily removed from the head with pliers. Doing so will remove a small metal staple that is used to clamp the bristles to the handle. The handle will safely return to the soil within 6 months in a commercial or private composting bin. The handle can also be reused in your garden or in any other creative way.’

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It gets even better though !!  The Humble Co. donates money every year, as well as, Humble products to the Humble Smile Foundation. The Humble Smile Foundation has projects across the globe and in some of the most vulnerable areas to deliver oral health products, care and eduction. These projects are funded from the sales of all Humble products so the more Humble products sold, the more their projects can be scaled up meaning they can reach more children and prevent more disease. The team behind the foundation is made up of Dental and Dental hygiene professionals and students. Both The Humble Co. and Humble Smile Foundation are passionate about raising awareness on the environmental damages plastic causes too.

They currently have active projects in:
India, Ethiopia, Nepal, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Transylvania, Cuba, Burkina Faso, Jamaica, Romania, Sri Lanka, Zambia, South Africa, Uganda, Cameroon, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast and Tanzania.

Their interactive map allows you to check out their worldwide projects.

Noel Abdayem, the founder and CEO of The Humble Co. says

When we are lucky enough to be born in an affluent part of the world it should be our duty to take care of the less fortunate. Many children will never own any oral care products and we’re depleting natural resources and filling up the oceans with used products.

Can we change our ways of production and consumption? Can we help provide oral care products to those that need it most? The answer is yes!

As a dentist, The Humble Co. was founded to create products that are good for you and kind to our planet. Every Humble purchase goes towards funding projects for the benefit of children in need

Join the movement. Make the switch. Go Humble.

I never knew a toothbrush could make such a positive impact to so many. If you share this post or purchase The Humble Co.’s products make sure you’re using the hashtags.

#GoHumble #HumbleBrush #GoHumbleGiveSmiles #TheHumbleCo #HumbleSmileFoundation 

This quote is on the packaging for this toothbrush and I feel its a good way to end this post.

‘Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever cared’

 

Lush

National Bubble Bath Day !! – My Favourite Lush Bars

img_9112 2 Picture of myself from @LushWatford via Instagram featuring Candy Cane reusable bubble bar – Christmas 2018 collection

Today is National Bubble Bar Day and as someone who loves a bath and loves Lush and who also happens to work for Lush it kind of goes without saying that I would love bubble bars and do a post on my favourite all year round bars. 

What is a bubble bar? I hear you ask. A bubble bar is quite simply a solid block of bubble bath that you either break into pieces and crumble under the tap as you run your bath or  hold underneath the tap for as long as you wish and then leave the bar on the side to dry. To tell the difference, the word ‘reusable’ will be on the sign.

There are many different bubble bars and many more come out at specific times of the year for different occasions such a Valentine’s Day (the 2019 range is in store now !!), Mothers and Fathers Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. This post will be on my favourite all year round bubble bars.

Pictures in this post have been taken from the Lush UK website.

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For Lush lovers The Comforter is a classic, no matter how many different bars I use, I will always come back to The Comforter because as cheesy as it sounds, its comforting !! 

For me, I would break this bar into 6 pieces and enjoy 6 good baths but its personal preference on how much you choose to use, if I’m feeling more indulgent I will get 4 baths. As everything is handmade sometimes different batches vary in size.

Ingredients:

  • Bergamot Oil which is uplifting
  • Cypress Oil which is antiseptic and relaxes you
  • Cassis Absolute is what gives this bar its deep Blackcurrant scent

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As with The Comforter, Brightside is one bar I keep coming back to and the size means I will also get about 6 baths out of this. I would use this bar in the mornings to wake myself up and the scent of this fills my bathroom. I just lay in the bath breathing in the citrusy scent, a perfect way to kickstart my day.

Ingredients

  • Sicilian Red Mandarin Oil rejuvenates the skin
  • Tangerine and Bergamot Oil give this bar the uplifting and sunny scent

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This bar makes me feel nostalgic, it was the first bar Lush product I ever used and it was the day before my interview to become a Christmas temp !! I was so nervous and wanted to try something I thought could help relax me and A French Kiss did not disappoint. The water always feels so soft when I use this and my skin feels lovely. It is a smaller bar so although I could probably get 3 baths with this I just split mine in half and get 2.

Ingredients

  • Lavender Oil and Lavender Absolute is calming and soothing on the skin
  • Rosemary and Thyme oil is antiseptic
  • Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is softening

 

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If I’m feeling indulgent and want to give myself a bit of a pamper Sunnyside is the bar I will use. Similar to Brightside, this bar is sweet and citrusy but this bar has a beautiful golden lustre. Lush use plastic free lustres and the one is this bar is called Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, aka Synthetic Mica. I could get 3 baths out of this but I feel that the water becomes more murky if less is used so I split the bar in half and get 2 baths out of this.

Ingredients

  • Lemon Oil is cleansing
  • Tangerine Oil is rejuvenating
  • Sweet Wild Orange Oil is refreshing and toning

 

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Although Milky Bath doesn’t have any colour, do not underestimate its powers !! When my skin is in need of some TLC and I want that silky feeling A French Kiss gives my skin but doubled I will always use this. To me the scent is a typical soapy smell but that what I love about it. I would get 2 baths out of this bar. This bubble bar has now been made into a hand and body soap called Milky Bar and I would highly recommend buying this if you suffer with sensitive skin. 

Ingredients

  • Soya Milk Powder soothes the skin
  • Fair Trade Organic Cocoa Butter leaves the skin feeling conditioned
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil protects the skin
  • Patchouli Oil relaxes you

 

Let me know what your favourite Lush goodies are and if you want any posts on specific products or ranges !!

Lush

Lush Spa Review – The Good Hour

I have worked at Lush for two years and I have always wanted to experience a treatment in one of Lush’s 7 spas. There are 11 treatments to choose from with prices between £65-£300.

Lush has spas in:

London Oxford Street
Leeds
Liverpool
Bath
Cardiff
Poole
Edinburgh

Read the Spa policies where it talks about minimum age, pregnancy information and Vegan treatments.

I gifted my Mother “The Good Hour” for Christmas …. 2016 !! but unfortunately life got in the way and we only got round to finally booking our trip to Poole for our treatment on the 11th July 2018

We booked a double room which was really lovely but of course this required two therapists to be free so bare with the lovely staff and book in advance if this is something you’d be interested in.

The Good Hour is a full body, deep tissue massage lasting an hour with a consolation lasting approximately 15minutes. 

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After a long, cold and slightly stressful journey we arrived in sunny Poole just before midday. We grabbed some food and I had some lovely Vegan ice cream before we checked into our hotel which is about a minutes walk to Lush. 

I had never had a massage before so I was feeling a little anxious but I was also so excited as it would be a new experience and one that I would be sharing with my Mum. I was also looking forward to feeling relaxed a pain free afterwards.

The staff in the shop were lovely and after a brief talk me and my Mum were greeted by Lyndsey who is the head therapist at the Poole spa. We were lead into a kitchen where we sat down surrounded by the sound of bird song. Lyndsey explained the treatment to me and my Mum and she talked us through the massage bars and we got to choose which one we would like. We both chose Wiccy Magic Muscles it has warming Cinnamon Leaf oil and stimulating Peppermint oil. During the treatment a pressure point technique is used where pressure is put onto a particular area of tension, if this technique doesn’t help cold jelly disks are placed onto the area to help. these jelly disks are only used in the Spa and they smelt so nice, I really wish I could remember what was in them and had the opportunity to purchase them.

After our consultation Lyndsey introduced us to Emma who would be my therapist for this treatment. Before we were escorted to the treatment room Lyndsey asked my Mum to something, I won’t reveal what as I don’t want to spoil the magic but at first I couldn’t understand why this was relevant. Emma showed us to the treatment room, it was dark and only light by a dim blue light. She told us to undress down to our knickers while she left the room and to get under the warms towels and when ready to ring a bell that was placed in between our beds. Before Emma left she used what my Mum had made and created the magic, it was so exciting and just added to the whole experience.

Once undressed and under the towels I rang the bell and the ladies came in. Music was playing, it was Sea chanties from the 50’s and 60’s which I know my Boyfriend Jack would have enjoyed as he loves that era of music. The tracks were perfectly selected to go along with each stage of the massage. It was explained to be, and felt like, we were taken on a journey out to sea and brought back again.

The massage felt so lovely but a little uncomfortable at times but this was only when an area of tension was being worked on. I specified that I had particular tension in my neck, legs and lower back and these areas were worked on. The massage started at our necks and worked down to our legs and feet where warm damp towels were used the clean them and create a new sensation. The tension in my neck was gone and when Emma worked on my thighs and calves I felt so relaxed that I could have probably dropped off to sleep, I had tension in places I didn’t even realise. The smell and sensation of the massage bar felt so relaxing too, I smell Wiccy Magic Muscles at work but this was in a different setting and I had never used the bar in this way, only slightly at home when my back is sore or when demoing it on customers arms at work.

When Emma worked on the top of the side of my thighs she found tension that required the pressure point technique. Strangly I found that I started to feel a period pain coming on but just put it down to my usual pains and tried to ignore it. Sadly as the massage went on the pain gradually got worse and I had to ask for a bathroom break. I just wanted to sit and try and compose myself as I felt anxious too. Once composed I went back into the room but unfortunately not for long. As Emma started working on my lower back the pain became so intense that I just couldn’t carry on. 

I told Emma that I couldn’t carry on and I kept apologising as I felt so bad and a bit embarrassed. We sat down by the kitchen while I had a cry and offloaded onto Emma about how I really wanted a nice day for me and my Mum and that it would have been so nice to have been pain free for a little while, I know it was my Endometriosis that caused this.

Emma was so kind and just listened to me. She said that I probably picked the wrong treatment for my type of pain and I completely agree. I will be looking into other Lush Spa treatments to find the best one for me.

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I was very kindly given a Golden Slumbers bath bomb as a kindness while I had a cup of tea and biscuits. We were also given a massage bar each to take home. Emma went and spoke to a lady called Frankie and they refunded my treatment !! This blew me away and I am so grateful that the lovely staff in Poole did this for me.

Once Lyndsey had finished my Mum’s treatment she too came to check on me. I was worried that my Mum would cut her treatment short as I knew she would be worried about me but I’m so glad she didn’t. I asked Lydnsey if she had told my Mum I wasn’t well and her reply was ”yes I told her you weren’t well and your Mum said – ohh no … that was lovely” we all laughed, I’m so happy my Mum got to experience the full treatment and when I went back into the room to get changed, I had been given a warm dressing gown, my Mum said how amazing the treatment had been for her. My Mum was upset for me but unfortunately we both come to expect things like this to happen to me. 

Once dressed we sat down and had a chat with both ladies. Although my treatment didn’t go to plan I still had a great experience and the ladies made us feel so comfortable throughout. I would definitely recommend a Lush Spa treatment and if you can get down to Poole I know you’ll have an fabulous time, especially if you have either Emma or Lydnsey as your therapist. 

We went back to the hotel and I did spend the rest of the time we were in Poole in bed unfortunately as I was in so much pain. Endometriosis is unpredictable and as I have had an operation I have scar tissue so I guess during the massage this was aggravated. In no way do I put any blame on Emma, she did nothing wrong. I would advise if you do have any health problems to fully disclose this with your therapist or when making an appointment so the correct treatment can be offered to you.

My Mum would definitely love to have another treatment and I have The Spell in mind for our next one. I’ll be sure to review that too and fingers crossed I won’t have any flare ups this time.

Anxiety · Mental Health

Getting Lost In Birmingham … And Coping !!

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A Bit Of Background 

For those who know me they will know how Anxiety has effected my life. For those who don’t know me, Anxiety became so debilitating that it went from being something that loomed over me whenever I did anything, over analysing, over planning, paranoia and panic attacks to not being able to leave my house for 9 months, that was roughly 3 years ago.

When I first started venturing out again I found it very hard and cried every time I went out and panic attacks were something that would happen multiple times in a day. I had to have everything planned, where I was going, bus times, how long I was going out for. If anything spontaneous was suggested or anything changed in my routine it sent me into meltdown and I couldn’t cope.

My friend Leanne was so pivotal in my recovery, she was the only person who stayed in contact with me and filled me in on the outside world. She encouraged me, supported me and congratulated me when I started leaving the house and making small victories.

2016 really was the year that everything changed. I went to London by myself, I met my lovely Boyfriend Jack and I really pushed myself and got myself a job. Working for Lush has pushed me and at times I thought that I made a mistake and that I did too much too soon but really it was what I needed to do. Working in retail forces you to talk to people, to think on your feet and cope with a day and a situation that is constantly changing.

Lets Go To A Concert !!

My Anxiety is much better but it does get the better of me sometimes. My friend Lauren who runs the blog History’s A Burden … Stories Can Make Us Fly asked me and our friend Izzy to go and see Demi Lovato in concert on Wednesday 13th June. Immediately the Anxiety set in and I thought that although I wanted to go that I couldn’t as it would be a new place, a new experience and one that I would experience with new people. I’ve known Lauren for 2 years and Izzy for just under a year and we are great friends but if I ever went away or to a concert it would be with me Mum, she was the one who got me through my worst periods of Anxiety and my worst my panic attacks at Wembley when I wanted to see One Direction and 5 Seconds Of Summer.

I decided to go for it and agree but I needed to be in control, I scrutinised Google Maps and trawled ticket sites to find the best deals. I bought the tickets and I even went as far as booking a hotel for myself the day before the concert so I could familiarise myself with Birmingham and deal with any Anxiety I had. On Sunday 10th June we found out that Demi had to postpone her London show due to sickness and I had a bad feeling about our date but I didn’t panic and just hoped for the best.

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Day 1

It took me two hours via train to get to Birmingham and when I arrived I was really pleased and proud of myself. I decided to have a mooch before finding my hotel which was nice but then I lost my bearings and as I was tired couldn’t make sense of my Google Maps. I did feel overwhelmed but I think that’s natural for anyone in a new city. My hotel was an 11 minute walk from the station but it took me and hour and a half to find it. It was 14:35 and I hadn’t eaten anything yet. After an hour in my room I knew I had to go out and get something to eat so I Googled ‘Vegan food in Birmingham’ and found Not Dogs a completely Vegetarian and Vegan restaurant. After my easier walk back to the station I opened Google Maps and saw that Not Dogs was a 3 minute walk. I walked around for an hour watching myself getting closer and then further away from the place. I was near tears at this point as I was angry and quite hungry. I asked someone for help and they told me it was inside the train station !! It had two floors and loads of restaurants, I had no clue !!

Once there I had the ‘What The Duck Dog’ and ‘Not Dog ‘Chicken’ Nuggets’ 

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After I had eaten I just wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep but before that I got a few snacks for the room. On my way back I lost my bearings again and continued to walk in a circle around Birmingham New Street Station and the shopping centre. I called my Mum expressing my frustration, it was 18:00 now and I left for food at 15:30, people heard me on the phone telling my Mum that I was lost yet nobody offered help. I was messaging Jack when my phone died which literally stopped me in my tracks. I stood and just breathed, I knew I’d find my way back eventually and I could ask people and charge my phone soon.

All I had to do was cross one road and I would have known where I was !! I finally got back after another half an hour and crashed out.

I brought my giant Rose Bombshell bath bomb with me and couldn’t wait to relax and forget the stress of the day.

 

After a lovely bath I slipped into bed and was ready to end the day when I thought I’d check Twitter to see if Demi had posted anything about her Birmingham show. I then saw this tweet from Birmingham Arena.

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I was gutted and I froze, what was I going to do ?! I had paid a lot of money to come and stay in Birmingham and I had everything planned out for tomorrow and suddenly I wasn’t in control of the situation anymore. As soon as I told my parents, Jack, Izzy and Lauren my phone was ringing and beeping with calls and messages asking what I’m going to do and being given different advice on what I should do. I was told to go down and ask the hotel staff if I could go home early and get a refund. The staff were lovely and very understanding. The lady said I could definitely do that and she said I had until 1pm the next day to decide. I went back to my room told everyone what had been said. I didn’t know what I’d do until I woke up.

Day 2

I woke up the next day drained and still unsure with what I was going to do. I went for breakfast and two members of the lovely staff brought me magazines and a printed out map of the local area with different things circled such as the local Library and the Museum. This is what I needed, a plan, structure. While I didn’t feel anxious, I wasn’t feeling very positive and before breakfast I didn’t have a clue if I was going to stay or not but the staff said I should make the most of the break and enjoy myself so that’s exactly what I did.

I set out positively with my map and a plan. I walked round The Library of Birmingham and The Secret Garden and then up to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery where I met Dippy !!

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Izzy and Lauren couldnt cancel their train tickets so while Lauren was working in Lush Nottingham I met up with Izzy. We walked round and then went for lunch at Fressh which is a Vegan restaurant.

I had the ‘What The Guac’ burger with fries and a ginger beer while Izzy had the ‘Original Meatball Sub’ and sweet potato fries.

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After, Izzy and I saw BBC3 filming and we asked if we could join in. They were filming something for Fathers Day to go onto their Facebook page. We had to hold up paddles for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and answered questions about our Dad’s. The questions ranged from ‘Have you ever seen your Dad cry?’ to ‘Has your Dad ever walked in on you having sex’ !!

We then grabbed a Starbucks and headed back to my hotel until Lauren arrived. In the evening after the three of us had a mooch we went to Bella Italia for a late dinner. It was really nice to spend some quality time with Lauren and Izzy away from work, away from Watford and away from our stresses.

Izzy and Lauren had to get the train home the same night are were very tired. Before they left we went back to my hotel and shared these Vegan doughnuts Lauren picked up in Nottingham. They were from a place wonderfully called Doughnotts.

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Afer saying goodbye to Izzy and Lauren I ran a bath and used The Big Sleep jelly bomb from Lush. I have only used the Snow Fairy jelly bomb that came out at Christmas before and thought this was a good time to try another. It went a beautiful  turquoise colour and once I had rubbed the jelly on my skin for hydration the jelly was no more and made no mess at all.

 

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Theses photos are unfiltered too by the way !!

After my bath I found myself reflecting on the last couple of days. I went to a new city alone, I put myself in new situations and had to talk to new people. To some this might not seem like much but to someone who’s life has been so heavily ruled by my mental and physical health this is indeed a big step. I’ve always thought about taking time for myself and going away for a couple of days but It was only daydreams until now. This will kick-start a new chapter in my life and I’m so excited to go on little adventures now.

Going Home

After another lovely breakfast I walked to the station and got a few nibbles to have on the train. I got a Soy Caramel Coffee Frappuccino without the cream and drizzle from Starbucks, thankyou to my manager Aida for introducing to me them, and waited for my train. I love the way they spelt my name, I thought Claire was easy to spell !!

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Once onboard I popped my headphones in and listened to ‘Flicker’ by Niall Horan and ‘Alone In The Universe’ by Jeff Lynne’s ELO and that took me all the way home. Two very different albums by two very different men and I love them both.

When in Birmingham I found myself looking at the floor and I just happened to be standing on Jeff Lynne’s ‘Walk Of Stars’ star !! I am a big ELO fan so for me this was so cool. Of all the people and of all the places to stop and look down and it just so happened to be there.

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Home Sweet Home

I am now home and the last two days seem a bit surreal to me, did I really do all of that?! Tomrrow I am back to work, funnily enough with both Lauren and Izzy, so soon the events from the last two days will become a memory and one that will have marked the start of adventures.

I want to thank Lauren and Izzy for being amazing friends. They are rays of sunshine who deserve so much love and positivity, the same amount they radiate and more.

I love you girls !!

Endometriosis

Endometriosis – What Is It? What Is The Cure? Will It Mean I Can’t Have Children?

There is so much to remember I just hope I managed to get it all down and didn’t go on for too long. This is all very personal but I know how important awareness is so if this helps more Women recognise their own symptoms then me feeling  little uncomfortable is completely worth it.

What Is Endometriosis?!

Endometriosis occours when tissue, like that of the lining of a women’s uterus, grows outside of it. This tissue can grow anywhere but it’s often found on organs in the pelvic and abdominal area. When a woman is about to menstruate this tissue swells and sheds each month but because this tissue has also grown outside of the uterus it cannot escape the body and therefore causes irritation (to put it lightly). This tissue is like glue and it can really mess up ones insides. So far there is no permanent cure and diagnosis can only be confirmed through surgery. Often in surgery this tissue is zapped away and many women choose to have Hysterectomy’s but this only works if all of the tissue grows on the organs removed. If any is left over it will grow back in time and you will still experience pain. Diagnosis take women approximately 7 years but it is usually longer.

Where It All Began

I have suffered from IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome since I was 5 so I’ve always suffered with severe stomach pains. As I got older the pain got worse and this is due to a few factors, grief and extreme anxiety. For years I underwent tests, went through multiple medications and therapy and nothing helped this pain. I missed most of secondary school and found it very hard to cope when I did attend due to being bullied and worrying about the embarrassment of becoming unwell outside of my home. I was very underweight and only ate when I got home from school to try and avoid being unwell when out, I began to fear food and panicked anytime I ate because I knew I’d be unwell. I found out I had an intolerance to dairy so I decided to become a Vegetarian (now Vegan) to see how that would affect me.

I started to feel better and I was able to go back to school, the people in my year just about started to become friendly with me, I started putting on weight and I began to relax and think that it was all over and I could finally live a normal life. Then BAM !! my periods started age 14 and the pain I had experienced before suddenly doubled and I genuinely thought I was going to die from the severity of the pains I experienced monthly. So back to the GP I went and more tests were done, contraceptives were offered which just messed up my cycle and took a toll on my already fragile mental health and even pregnancy was offered as a solution, I was 16 at this point and not in a relationship. The only thing that could be found via ultrasound were Cysts on my Ovaries, some had burst and some weren’t big enough to be removed. I was told that I just had to take painkillers and that the Cysts would either go away themselves or that I would have to wait for them the grow to 10cm before surgery would be considered, my Cysts were only about 2.5cm and never changed.

When Was I Diagnosed?

After years of begging for help from my GP, trawling through the internet, considering a Hysterectomy, being admitted to A&E multiple times to only be made to feel like I was being dramatic and making everything up and even contemplating suicide to escape the pain, I stumbled across this website about Endometriosis and I broke down. This is what I had, I found it, I didn’t have to Pidgeon hole myself into any of the symptoms, this was me exactly and I just remember sobbing for hours because I finally had an answer and knew that I wasn’t ‘weak’ or ‘couldnt handle normal monthly pain’. I told my Mum and she agreed but was wary me of getting my hopes up to only be disappointed. I made an appointment with my GP and told her that I knew thought I had Endometriosis and asked her to refer me to a Gynecologist. She said she just wanted to try a few more medications first before referring me, I was now 21. After trying Provera and the Depo shot, which just made me bleed continuously for about 6 months and sent my emotions into complete meltdown, my GP finally refered me.

When I first met my Gynecologist he was really sympathetic and helpful. He said that it definitely sounded like I had Endo and that he would send me for ‘one more ultrasound and a blood test as a precaution’ but that he would most definitely be operating on me at some point.

I had a blood test and that gave me some news that I really wasn’t expecting, it turns out I have low Ovarian reserve. Anti-Müllerian Hormone, or ‘AMH’ is a hormone which is given off by developing follicles, which are egg sacs containing immature eggs. AMH naturally decreases with age. I was told by my GP that I had a level of 17 and that this is a level that would usually be seen in a women a few years older than me. The level goes from 3 – 30 so I know it’s not too low which was a relief. Unfortunately my GP didn’t have a clue about what any of that meant and couldn’t answer my questions so I had to wait and see my Gynecologist.

He confirmed what my GP had told me and said that my best option was to freeze my eggs and he urged me to consider taking out a loan to freeze them and to pay for IVF further down the line. He also said I should have serious talk with my boyfriend and maybe consider trying for children sooner rather than later. My mind was all over the place and I found it hard to take in most of what he was saying but when I left I did just what he said. I looked into loans and decided that it was too risky to get into debt for something that may never work. I had many high emotion talks with my boyfriend and it put a real strain on our relationship as he said he wasnt ready for children and didn’t really want to think about them at our age. I felt like a ticking time bomb and worried that with everyday that went past, with every bout of pain, that my eggs were decreasing by the minute.

Fast forward to August 2017, aged 23,  I had a Laparoscopy (key hole surgery) and a Hysteroscopy (inspection of the womb) where I was told that I have stage 3 Endometriosis; there are 4 stages. The tissue was zapped away and luckily the tissue hadn’t grown on my Ovaries as the tissue will destroy, and for want of a better description, eat your eggs.

After my diagnosis I didn’t really know how to feel, I’d be fighting for an answer for 9 years and I finally had one, I could stop trying to convince people that I was actually unwell and that I needed help and I could stop trying to find an answer and try to move forward with my life.

During my operation the Merina coil was inserted, I haven’t had a period since a about June 2017 and I knew I definitely didn’t want them to start again. I haven’t had much pain since my operation and any pain that I have had is nowhere near the pain I used to experience and I will gladly take that over the pain I had before my surgery.

The Healing Process

My goodness did I underestimate how unwell I would be !! During key hole surgery, gas is pumped into your cavity to move other organs out-of-the-way so the surgeon can see what they’re doing. Unfortunately the gas has to leave you naturally and I just thought that I’d feel a bit uncomfortable, be a little gassy and that it would be gone … this gas wasn’t leaving so easily. I was like a lava lamp, every time I breathed in my stomach flipped and I would feel so nauseous, be sick and still try to be sick even though I hadn’t eaten because of how unwell I felt. I had an awful pressure in my chest that made me feel like my whole body was vibrating and pain in my shoulders from the gas too. I felt so trapped in my own body again and I hated it, I couldn’t get comfy, I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t go to the toilet either even though I had the urge to go,  my whole body just seemed to shut down. I had to get my Mum to pat my back to try to make the gas escape and it worked a little but for the most part I had to walk up and down my upstairs landing with a bucket in my hands as when the gas moved it made me sick.

I never had any pain from my incisions apart from the obvious tenderness and the coil has never caused me any problems either, I’m just thankful I had it fitted during my operation as many women have told me its horrendous having it fitted when awake.

What Happened Next

After a few horrid weeks I was back on my feet and although a little fragile I was on the mend. I went back to my GP but this time I had a different experience. I walked in and before I had even sat down, without him looking at me, he said ‘so, still not pregnant?‘ I was in complete shock and very confused, I said to him ‘well no, you fitted me with the coil’AND IM NOT TRYING TO GET PREGNANT YET !! all he said back about the matter was ‘oh yes, that would be quite difficult then’ while laughing. He didn’t have half of my notes, didn’t have the photos from my operation that he said he’d have and very nonchalantly told me that my Ovarian reserve level was now 19 !! He tried to skim over it but I interrupted him and said ‘I thought you said that it wasn’t going to get any higher?!‘ and he said ‘ohh, well it can fluctuate but just because it’s a level of 17 doesn’t mean its going to jump to 30’ I said that I had spent the last few months in a permanent state of anxiety, that I was trying to save up all of my money and that because of the stress my relationship nearly ended. He didn’t understand the severity of what he had said and didn’t apologise either. Once again he told me that I could have my eggs frozen and to consider taking out a loan or that I could wait until March 2018 and have the test again. I said I’d wait and have the test again.

After that appointment I was so angry, I broke down and apologised to my boyfriend for all of the stress and pressure I had put on him to decide about when to have children and the uncertainty of if this would be what broke us up.

Where I Am Now

I haven’t had the test again, My birthday is next week and I didn’t want any bad news to ruin it. I also still have no clue about what to do with my eggs. I don’t know if its best that I freeze them or wait and hope that there are still enough and in good condition to conceive a child naturally. I want it to be my decision and not my body’s. I’d like to think ‘what will be will be’ but it’s very hard when I’ve wanted children for as long as I can remember. It’s a risk either way whatever I choose, freezing my eggs and trying IVF isn’t a 100% guarantee and neither is waiting to try to conceive naturally.

I’ll be honest, I’m not ok, I’m struggling to deal with having low reserve and not knowing what to do about it or what will happen in the future just makes it worse. Whenever I see children or a pregnant lady, which is often, especially where I work, it’s a constant reminder of this issue and that it might not happen for me.

I will post an update on things in a few months and hopefully I’ll have a clearer idea about what I will do and fingers crossed my reserve hasn’t dropped any lower !!