International Women’s Day 2019

Good morning and happy Friday. Today is a change from the hospital diaries and back to a bit of blogging which is lovely! I do apologize that these may not be as visually appealing as normal posts but I’m having to use my phone while in hospital.

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day (March 8) celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day always has a theme, which is a campaign worked on throughout the year and this year it is #balanceforbetter

The #balanceforbetter campaign pushes for work from the grassroots to international level to help achieve a gender balanced world.

Book Review – Voices Of Powerful Women by Zoe Sallis

A fantastically inspiring collection of interviews with 40 successful and empowering women, including Maya Angelou, Isabel Allende, Mary Robinson and Shami Chakrabati, exploring their challenges and achievements.

In this empowering book, 40 amazing women who have exerted an influence on others in many different ways discuss their work, their achievements, their hopes and their fears, offering women everywhere inspiration and optimism for the future through their fascinating explanations of what they have achieved. Featuring politicians, environmentalists, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, actors, world leaders and Nobel Peace Prize winners, this book encourages readers to believe that they can achieve their greatest ambitions and help change the world for the better. 

The book is structured around ten questions, with the 40 interviewees providing a pithy and insightful answer to each one. Topics range from influential early experiences, inspirations in life and most admired female figures to causes of anger, greatest fears, how to change the world and advice for the younger generation. 

The full list of powerful women featured in the book is as follows: Isabel Allende, Christiane Amanpour, Maya Angelou, Hanan Ashrawi, Joan Baez, Benazir Bhutto, Mary Kayitesi Blewitt, Emma Bonino, Shami Chakrabarti, Jung Chang, Kate Clinton, Marie Colvin, Marion Cotillard, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Carla Del Ponte, Judi Dench, Shirin Ebadi, Tracey Emin, Jane Fonda, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Dagmar Havlová, Swanee Hunt, Bianca Jagger, Nataša Kandić, Kathy Kelly, Martha Lane Fox, Dame Ann Leslie, Professor Wangari Maathai, Mairead Maguire, Mary McAleese, Soledad O’Brien, Sinéad O’Connor, Yoko Ono, Mariane Pearl, Kim Phuc, Paloma Picasso, Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, Paula Rego, Louise Ridley, Mary Robinson, Jody Williams.

What I Thought

I read this book in three short stints as I found it so interesting! Had the time, finishing it in one day would have been very possible. I thought it was perfect to share today with you all on International Women’s Day

The women featured in this book have some amazing stories, ideas, experiences and knowledge and share it so well in this structure, with the selected questions the author chose to use. The questions didn’t come across as too literary or academic, which meant it was an interesting general read rather than feeling like you are studying something. It was good to have a section on what each women does and did, as some of the names I didn’t recognize. Seeing some of these topics from different viewpoints was an eye opener and I really enjoyed it.

I love non fiction as well as fiction and if you are a fan I would definitely give this one a try as I found it fascinating.

Link to buy on Kindle

To round off I thought I would answer a couple of the questions asked in the book myself. My answers won’t be nearly as good I’m sure, but if you give the book a read you will see how it makes you think about your views, values and ideas like it did mine.

Did your upbringing or early experiences influence the direction your life took?

Without a doubt. I don’t think anyone could claim what happens to them ‘along the way’ wouldn’t affect things at all. I think mine had a more profound impact as it’s been the heath issues I’ve faced and that’s not something I can change by moving where I live or getting a better job for example. Since being little I’ve always wanted to be in the field of caring – a vet or doctor growing up. My Uncle told me how they birthed cows age 9 and that idea went out the window. Unfortunately my poor health saw me have to leave college and studies, so things then did take an unplanned track. I’m now however, back with a more solid idea of how I want to help people, and that has come from more and more experiences which I have built up along the way.

Amazing support from my family, friends and medical team have also always had such a positive impact on my life too, which has made sure I don’t back down from a challenge and still aim high, despite my limitations at times.

Family pic

What most promotes you to anger, and do you believe in forgiveness?

First – anger. So many see anger as a bad thing and I do believe being angry alot, isn’t good for your soul. However, anger is just another emotion and as long as you can express it safely and without hurting others, why is it a bad thing to admit something has angered you?

Things that anger me are when people are taken advantage of or belittled because of their nature. It took me a long time to realise it, but I was the sort of person who could very much allow this to happen. I’ve said before that I believe I’m a generally nice person. Not a word many use to describe themselves I’m sure, but I don’t mind it and I don’t find it a bad thing. However, some will use that against you, whether to make you feel down or whether they manipulate you for their own good. Discrimination in all forms angers me too – we have one shot at life and I’m not sure why people want to spend it constantly fighting and battling!

As for forgiveness, I don’t think it as something someone receives, but something someone gives. I think it’s more to do with the person who was wronged letting go of what’s happened and not letting it impact on their life, self esteem, self worth etc. They forgive to move past it. The person who needs forgiveness will have to decide whether they just accept it or whether they use it as a lesson to then improve themselves or a situation.

Hope you enjoyed reading a but of something that wasn’t about the hospital. I certainly enjoyed writing it but it will be good to get back on my computer! Maybe time to look into a laptop for me – any recommendations let me know in the comments below please!

A Smear Campaign

Good morning and happy hump day! For those that don’t already know, this is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week in the UK. The week aims to raise awareness of cervical cancer and the importance of smear tests. I am rather passionate about women taking up the offer of their smear tests as feel prevention is always better than cure. My mum is a smear test screener (she looks at them down the microscope and checks the cells) so have learnt a lot about the subject from her.

What Is A Smear Test?

A smear test is offered free by the NHS every three years to women between the ages of 25 and 49 and every five years from the age of 50 and 64. You will receive a letter from your GP inviting you to make an appointment for your smear test when it is due. The appointment will take about fifteen minutes, however, the procedure is over in under five minutes.

When you arrive the nurse will ask you some basic information and also about your periods – when your last one was, if you have had any irregular bleeding etc. You will be told about the procedure and asked to sign a consent form. You will then be asked to go behind a curtain and undress from the waist down, and then lay on the bed.

The nurse will then join you and ask you to bend your legs and keeping your feet together, lower your knees towards the bed. If, like me, you have mobility issues such as arthritis, please let the nurse know. They are always very helpful and accommodating with me!

The picture above on the left is the speculum. They are either made of plastic or metal ad are used to open up your vaginal canal. This isn’t generally uncomfortable unless you are very tense. It can be a bit cold, but a kind nurse will normally warm a metal one under the tap before using it!

The nurse will try and ‘visualise’ the cervix – that is, have a look and see if they can see any abnormalities in the first instance. Then will then use a small brush, and wipe it around the cervix to collect the cells. This will be popped into a test tube and sent to the hospital to be screened. The nurse will then remove the speculum and you will be able to get dressed.

The Results

The brush which has your cervical cells on will be sent to the hospital where it will be screened. The idea of a smear test is not to detect cancer, although it will do if it is present. A smear test is designed to identify changes in the cells in your cervix which could develop into cancer, therefore a preventative measure.

HPV screening is coming in in the UK and in some areas your smear will be initially checked for the HPV virus. If that isn’t present, you will be sent a negative result and asked to return in three/five years. If the HPV virus is present, your cells will be put onto a slide and sent to screeners who will look at it through a microscope and check for abnormalities.

There are three levels of abnormal cells that can detected before it turns into cancer, and this is the aim of the program – to detect these changes and treat before it gets that severe. Depending on the level of these cells will depend on what treatment needs doing and you may be invited for a smear test sooner than your usual recall time to ensure treatment is successful. You will be contacted by your doctors surgery in the event of an abnormal result.

“I had my first smear aged 25 and had stage 3 pre cancerous cells, basically the next step was cancer. I had them removed and had several colnoscopies which involved a camera up the foof but on my last one got the all clear.. They are so important”

COLPOSCOPY – A colposcopy is a simple procedure used to look at the cervix, the lower part of the womb at the top of the vagina. It’s often done if cervical screening finds abnormal cells in your cervix.

Facts & Figures

TWO WOMEN LOSE THEIR LIVES TO CERVICAL CANCER EVERY WEEK IN THE UK

9 WOMEN ARE DIAGNOSED WITH CERVICAL CANCER IN THE UK EVERY WEEK

I posted a series of polls and posed questions on my Instagram about women’s uptake and experiences of smear tests and the HPV vaccine. 

Statistics suggest that 4 in 5 women currently have their smear test when it is offered. The women who answered my survey were slightly above this rate which is encouraging, although there was still 18% of women who hadn’t had one in the previous three years.

“Never had one! I’m scared if I am honest”

75% OF CERVICAL CANCER DIAGNOSIS CAN BE PREVENTED WITH CERVICAL SCREENING (SMEAR TESTS)

The latest government statistics suggest that 83.9% of teenage girls in year 9 take up both doses of the HPV vaccine. This national statistic is higher than the results from my poll, in which 75% of people offered the vaccine had taken up the offer.

“I always have my smear. The NHS don’t offer anything free that isn’t necessary. Also, all women should have them as a basic form of self care”

The HPV Vaccine

HPV – Human Papillomavirus

HPV is a virus that around 80% of us will have at some point. It is passed through skin to skin contact, and in most cases our immune system will get rid of it.

There are over 200 different types of HPV, around 40 of which affect the genital regions of men and women. Of these, around 13 are linked to cancer and known as high risk. HPV can lie dormant in your system for years so you may not know who you caught it from or when you caught it.

The HPV vaccine is now offered to teenage girls in the UK. It helps protect against two strains of the high risk HPV virus which can cause cancer, and two strains of the HPV virus which can cause genital warts.

FAQ

Does a smear test hurt?

Not usually! It can be a little bit uncomfortable, but should not be painful. Please alert the nurse if you do encounter a high level of pain while having the test as soon as you can. You may experience a little bleeding after the test, I generally wear a panty liner just in case.

“It made me bleed. Was painful but not too much that it put me off. Peace of mind knowing”

What symptoms should I see a GP about?

Symptoms including bleeding after sex and between periods should always be reported to a doctor. They may decide to do a smear test before you are due, just in case.

I had the HPV vaccine and still got HPV. What is the point?

The HPV vaccine currently only protects against two of the high risk HPV strains and two other strains of HPV. Being vaccinated against some of these strains is definitely better than none at all, and scientists are working on the other strains to offer better protection for women.

I am so embarrassed, what can I do?

Remember that nurses are trained to do these tests, and do multiple ones of them a week. For them it is very normal and routine. Explaining to the nurse that you are worried/embarrassed can definitely help, and they will be able to reassure you.

When is the best time to book my smear test?

You should aim to book your smear test for around two weeks after the start of your period, mid cycle. However, a smear test can be booked at any time of the month.

I had her HPV vaccine, does that mean I don’t need a smear test?

YOU STILL NEED A SMEAR TEST EVEN IF YOU HAVE HAD THE HPV VACCINE. This information does not seem to be getting out there,so any girls think they no longer need a smear test after having the vaccine. However, as explained, the vaccine currently only covers two of the 13 high risk HPV strains, so smear tests are still very important.

I have had a fistula and seton in place, and am worried it will hurt more?

This was a question raised on my Instagram stories following my polls. I am not sure of the answer to this but wanted to say – it is still vital to have your smear test so speak to your practice/IBD nurse who will be able to give you more information.

Smear For Smear Campaign (Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust)

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is the only UK charity dedicated to women, their families and friends affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. They aim to support, raise awareness and provide information.

Check out their website here

The Smear for Smear Campaign this week will see women all over social media posting pictures with their lipstick smeared. You can join in and don’t forget o include the hashtags #smearforsmear and #ccpw

I want to thank Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust for the great information available on their website. I have also been sent some fantastic leaflets through the post, and am happy to send some on to anybody who would like to read or who has a method of distributing it, feel free to contact me at thespooniemummy@hotmail.com

When did you last have a smear test? I would love to hear about your experiences, feel free to comment below of you have any advice or questions and I will endeavour to reply to everyone.

The Mental Health Tag

Good morning and happy new week. Today is officially known as Blue Monday – apparently the most depressing day of the year.

Chronic Illness and Depression/Anxiety

Many people don’t realise that along with being diagnosed with a chronic illness, people are usually also struggling with their mental health. Having a condition which can mean you struggle to complete everyday tasks and have a ‘normal’ life can be very demoralising. Chronic illness may also affect you socially, leaving you isolated and lonely while feeling unwell at home or in the hospital.

The Mental Health Tag

I saw this in a post over on Happy Mentality and thought it would be a good one to do for today. Supporting people with chronic illnesses with their mental health is something I am passionate about. It can so often be overlooked by the NHS, due to low funding and a focus on fixing physical problems and symptoms. My inbox is always open to those needing support or help, so please feel free to message me anytime.

1. What is your mental health issue? 

I have anxiety and depression. Both started around three and a half years ago when I was having a rough time with my health, as well as in my marriage.

2. Do you have medication and/or therapy?

I use both and I think that works best, particularly with anxiety. I take Citalopram daily which is an antidepressant and also good for anxiety. I also have CBT sessions.

What is CBT? Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression

3. What therapy/medication have you tried and has any worked for you? 

I started on Citalopram taking 20mg a day, which was then increased to 30mg. This seems to suit me with minimal side effects and I feel my anxiety and depression is well controlled.

4. How long have you had problems for? 

I would say that I have been suffering with anxiety for a little longer but I realised I was depressed in September 2015.

5. Do your family/friends know? 

Yes. I am very open about it and many of them read my blog so see things like this! My partner Ste, Mum, Dad and brothers have always been really supportive.

6. Does this affect your work and daily living? 

I cannot currently work due to my physical health. I wouldn’t say that depression and anxiety affects my daily life, some days and weeks I can be perfectly fine. It sort of comes in waves. Sometimes when certain things happen or my health is particularly bad, there is an explanation, but sometimes life is fine and the feelings I have are pretty inexpiable. This has been a lot beater since I started taking medication and attending CBT though,.

7. What makes you feel calm? 

Reading, sleeping, being with my kids and dogs. A relaxing bath and a bit of a pamper. My blog helps me by giving me a focus and other people to help and support. I enjoy writing, planning and also putting make up and getting dressed every day makes me feel more together.

8. What do you do in crisis? 

I made a post about Coping With Anxiety – Grounding Techniques last year.  My go to technique is the square breathing one. I find it easy to remember and simple to do, and it works! I am also getting better about speaking to people when things are happening. After the boys went to live with their Dad I was really struggling and not in a good place. Luckily, at two of my lowest points I was able to open up to Ste and a couple of close friends who helped pull me through.

9. What advice would you give to others suffering? 

It sounds cliche but my best advice is to open up to someone. Whether that is your partner, doctor, a blogger who writes about this stuff, a friend or your rheumatology nurse who is there to mainly see how your joints are doing (yes, that was my choice although I hadn’t planned it), you will be amazed at how people will want to hep. The sense of relief that came from just telling someone about how I felt was so immense.

Saying that, some people will be supportive butt not know how to help you, so pick your chosen person with care. This can often mean it is easier to speak to a medical professional or someone who is open about their own mental health problems. If you try once and don’t get the answers you need, try again. You did the hardest but once, now you are ready to receive the help you need and deserve.

10. What makes you smile? 

The kids, Ste, our dogs and extended family. Reading will always make me smile. I also enjoy going to the cinema, watching Netflix with Ste snuggled up in bed, exploring and visiting new places, fresh air, shopping, cross stitch, learning and cooking (as well as eating ha ha).

11. Describe your mental health issue in 5 words – 

Confusing, upsetting, strengthening, eye-opening and tiring

12. Insert a picture to make people smile –

Hungover, hair half in still, the morning after my friends masquerade ball. Maybe I should have kept my mask on ha ha!

I hope that today is actually as positive as can be for everyone. Please feel free to use these questions and continue the tag on your blog. I am not going to tag anyone specifically but hoping some of you will carry this on!

January Challenge

Good morning and happy new year! Who else is so ready for 2019? I am definitely hoping for lots more positive and happy experiences this year and am ready to get working for them.

December Challenge

I am pleased to say I completed my Instagram photo challenge last month and am rather pleased with my little self! The prompts were great and definitely got me thinking about everything around Christmas. I also was pleased to discover a couple of other great parent bloggers over on Instagram through the challenge. Thanks for hosting The Granthams!

January Challenge

It sounds cliche, but this year I am starting with a fitness challenge. I was definitely wanting to lose some weight prior to Christmas, but thought waiting till after the festivities were over was the best idea!

I have tried not to over indulge too much and have not been a total pig, but after the years of steroids taking their toll, I am heavier than I am happy with and ready to get down to a version of me that I am more content with.

I know many will look at me and say you aren’t overweight, and I understand that, but I am happier when I weigh a little less than I am now and am looking to get back down to 56/57 kilos.

My Weight Journey

For most of my adult life my weight has been pretty consistent at around 50-52 kilos. A Crohn’s flare in December 2013 saw my weight plummet by a stone in just 6 days over Christmas, but at the time I just battled through it as it wasn’t long after my diagnosis and I thought I just had to crack on, as you do! Prior to my ostomy surgery in 2016 I was down to 40kg and severely ill. As I had been poorly for around six months, I didn’t quite realise how poorly I looked during this time. Now I look back at photos and the skeleton shape staring back horrifies me.

The photo on the right is me in April 2016 weighing just 40 kilos and severely ill

Following my hemicolectomy and ostomy surgery, I began putting back on the weight my body had lost and was feeling much healthier. After being used to such a skinny appearance for so long, I struggled with this though too. I remember sharing a photo of me holding my cousins newborn baby and everybody saying that I looked so healthy and so much happier – I felt huge. The constant yo-yoing of weight caused by my Crohn’s Disease had caused me to suffer with BDD.

I HATED this photo for so long and thought I looked massive

What Is BDD?

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental health condition which causes you to worry about flaws in your appearance. These flaws are often minor, or not even noticeable to others. Because I had been poorly for so long and had become used to how skinny and underweight I was, the weight gain I experienced post surgery affected me badly at first, making me think I was hugely overweight. In fact, I was around 56/57 kilos which, although heavier than my usual body weight, was actually very healthy and I now look back on that photo and love it!

Find out more about BDD, symptoms and what to do if you think you have it on the NHS Website

The Goal

Since having a couple of bad flares and rounds of IV steroids, I have developed the ‘moonface’ people often struggle with, as well as an increase in appetite which has caused me to gain a lot more weight. My goal is now to get back down to around 56/57 kilos which was my weight post surgery and where I felt most confident and happy.

Diet

To do this I will be ‘dieting’ to an extent. I eat pretty healthy meals anyway but I would like to stick to a healthier schedule of eating and make sure my snacks are healthier. Having a stoma and Crohn’s Disease won’t make this ease, as I struggle with fibre and have to stick to lower residue foods but I am ready for the challenge and also looking into low FODMAP as a potential thing to try.

Exercise

I have really been falling down on my exercise this last year and this is where I am going to make a concerted effort to improve. I used to walk the children to and from school every day and now don’t have that to do, so I have cut out a huge chunk of my normal daily activity.

I found this on Pinterest and loved the fact it was quite relaxed and you could choose different styles of workouts to fit the theme each day. As I have arthritis many of the workout plans posted are entirely unsuitable, or have certain chucks of them that I have to miss out. I will be swapping the yoga sections fop Pilates as this is very similar and something I already do and enjoy.

I grabbed this from He & She Eat Clean and they do have some workouts for the cardio and strength training days if you would like to have a look!

Would love some exercise buddies, so if you want to join in please pop a comment below – we could maybe start a little chat group where we can keep an eye on how we are all doing and motivate one another. I am really looking forward to this challenge, although we will see if that mentality continues to the end of the month… wish me luck!

November Favourites

I haven’t done a favourites post in a while and thought #blogmas was the perfect time to bring it back.  Here is what I have been loving this month.

Netflix – Salem

I have been watching this while Ste has been in hospital as it isn’t really his cup of tea.  I have really been enjoying it though and have enjoyed looking more into the history of the Salem witch trials as a result (I am a bit of a history geek).  I am about half way through the second season now and there are three online, will hopefully be finished the whole lot by Christmas.

I also finally got round to watching Bridget Jones’s Baby and really enjioyed it!  Perfect for a cosy, girlie night in!

Aldi Cheddar and Cracked Black Pepper Thins

I picked these up in Aldi and they are super delicious.  Perfect for a snack with some homemade salsa or with a little cheese spread on – I hope I will be able to find them in there again.  That is one of the only problems with Aldi – they don’t have everything in there everytime you go in!

Starbucks Eggnog Latte

So so pleased to see these back in Starbucks!  I have never tried proper Eggnog before and think I need to give it a go this Christmas, but these taste amazing!

Asda Red Pepper and Wensleydale Soup

Nothing says Winter to me like a bowl of soup!  I often pick up two or three of the fresh soup cartons from Asda when I do the shopping, which do me two meals each.  This month I saw this one for the first time and it is really tasty!  I took out the pieces of pepper skin as my ostomy would definitely object if I ate those, but they are quite big and easy enough to remove.  I also love the Broccoli and Stilton one they do too.

MakeUp Revolution Advent Calendar


Ste got me the Yankee Candle Advent Calendar and this year he has got me this one – I love it!  Really cant wait to open the doors and see what is inside.  Be sure to be following mwe on Instagram as I will be sharing what I get over on my stories!

Follow me on Instagram

Christmas Tree Scent Sticks

I picked these up in B & M and they smell amazing!  Can’t wait to pop them in my tree so the whole living room smells of them!

Geeky Melts Wax Melts

Everyone who knows me, knows I love my candles and wax melts.  I was really pleased to be sent some wax melts from Geeky Melts to try.  They worked really well for two burns and the scents were amazing and different from any I had had from other places.  I love the different designs they do (including fab Christmas ones at the moment) and think  they would make perfect gifts.

Check out Geeky Melts on

Instagram

Etsy Shop

I do hope you have enjoyed my little round up this month.  I am sure there will be LOTS for me to share in the December round up – it is one of my favourite months of the year after all!  What have you been enjoying this month?  Let me know in the comments below so I can try them out,