Lifestyle journalist and thirty-something singleton Melissa hashtags, insta’s and snapchats her supposedly fabulous life on every social media platform there is.
That is until she wakes up on her birthday, another year older and still alone, wondering if for all her internet dates, love really can be found online? The challenge: go technology free for a whole month!
Forced to confront the reality of her life without its perfect filters, Melissa knows she needs to make some changes. But when she bumps into not one, but two gorgeous men, without the use of an app, she believes there could be hope for love offline.
If only there was a way to choose the right guy for her…
Victoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and travelling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, ‘The Secret to Falling in Love,’ in 2016.
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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 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Another month, another Shari Low book. I can’t seem to get enough of this author!
Another Day in Winter by Shari Low
Forever friends Shauna and Lulu touch down at Glasgow Airport on a quest to find answers from the past.
George knows his time is nearing the end, but is it too late to come to terms with his two greatest regrets?
His Grandson Tom uncovers a betrayal that rocks his world as he finally tracks down the one that got away.
And single mum Chrissie is ready to force her love-life out of hibernation, but can anyone compare to the man who broke her heart?
After the success of the No1 best seller ONE DAY IN DECEMBER, comes the second unmissable read in Shari Low’s Winter Day trilogy.
What I Thought
Another corker from a lady who is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. As I have said before, chick-lit is not my favourite genre but I do like to read the odd one now and again to break up the heavy thrillers I enjoy. However, I really do like this style from Shari Low. Hers seem more realistic and although the ending is generally still a happy one, I don’t read with a sense of knowing that ‘of course everything will magically fall into place’.
The book covers one day approaching Christmas. Each two hour slot gives a chapter from the perspective of one of the four main characters, These characters, as well as the others involved were all really likeable and well written about. I did not realise that Shari had previously written a similar styled book before this, but it is very much a standalone with just a hint of the possible story-line being bought up in this one.
An absolute delight to read and highly recommended to anyone who enjoys these kinds of book.
Good morning and happy new week! I am slowly getting back into the swing of things and starting to feel a little better. Planning to take this week slowly, to make sure I recover properly and do not have a lot planned apart from reading, sewing and studying! I have also been playing about with the blog – what do you all think? Be great to hear some feedback, you can pop a comment at the end of this post.
The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Headline Review (20 Sept. 2018)
If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.
If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.
But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.
What I Thought
This is a wonderful story that will have you crying as well as laughing out loud. You get to hear from Melody, Flynn and Rose’s perspectives and how each of them cope with Melody’s neurological condition – which makes her sing when she is nervous.
This leads to some hilarious moments but the book is also heartbreakingly sad in parts. The characters are all easily likeable and the pace of the book is good. Although I enjoyed the use of imagery, sometimes this did feel a little overloaded, and could have perhaps been reigned in a little.
I would recommend this one to fans of books like ‘Me Before You’and similar and will definitely look for more from this author. A great read!
Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire, with her partner and four children. Her spare time consists of writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day. Emma has always wanted to be a writer – ever since her childhood, she’s been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend ‘Boot’) and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations. The Songs of Us was inspired by Emma’s love of music and her ability to almost always embarrass herself, and her children, in the most mundane of situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two, that she began to write Melody’s story. Working full-time with a large family meant that Emma had to steal snippets of ‘spare’ time from her already chaotic and disorganised life; the majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office. She never expected to fall so deeply in love with the King family and is overwhelmed that others feel the same.
Today, March 8th 2018 is International Women’s Day. It commemorates the movement for women’s rights and in honour of the day I thought I would share 15 women who inspire me with you all. I hope you all enjoy having a read and let me know which lovely ladies inspire you in the comments below!
Apologies that this went out without any text – it had not saved correctly and as I haven’t been at my computer this morning I hadn’t realised!
Reese has been one of my favourite actresses ever since she starred as Elle in Legally Blonde. She comes across as a lovely person who would be a great friend and I really enjoy all her work. She is talented, beautiful and a fantastic Mum.
This lovely lady is just amazing. Since the horrifying attack in which an ex partner arranged to have acid thrown at her she has gone from strength to strength. She has courageously showed off her scars and still fights an ongoing battle with her health due to her injuries. She is a fab, working mum and I really am inspired by her strength.
I follow Giovanna over on YouTube and Instagram and she is great at showing every side of her crazy life (frazzled Instagram stories at midnight when she has just deleted a ton of work that she hadn’t saved for instance). She is a working mum to two lovely boys and has a third child on the way. She is also a fantastic author. I have not long read ‘Something Kind Of Wonderful’ (check out my review here) and I have also been recommended two other books of hers from friends. She is also an ambassador for CoppaFeel – so if you are reading this and haven’t in a while, get checking out your breasts!
Ellen for President! This lady is just beautiful, inside and out. I watch her show as often as I can and she is so generous, funny, comforting and genuine. Plus she is the voice of Dory – just keep swimmin’!
As a single parent struggling, this lady wrote one of the most magical book series, ever! Yes I said it, ever. You know how much I love to read, but the Harry Potter series just has to be in everyone’s top ten. She created a world and characters that many of us have grown up with, and are now introducing our children too. Her writing is fantastic and she absolutely deserves all the plaudits she received.
I came across this amazing queen on Facebook and haven’t stopped following her since. She just speaks so much truth, is direct and to the point and is absolutely, amazingly supportive to others. She coined the phrase ‘queen’ for all the women she talks about, talks to and inspires. She is hilarious, honest and real. Definitely someone to check out if you haven’t already.
One of the most successful first ladies ever I think. Michelle Obama is running campaigns helping young girls across the world get into education and more. She was also a great sport doing the Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, showing off some real personality and the Instagram snaps between her and Barack can be soppy but there is definitely #relationshipgoals right there!
Malala is the young girl shot in the head by the Taliban. Maybe one of their worst mistakes was not killing her. She has gone on to tirelessly campaign for girls to be educated and has made one heck of a noise across the world, winning a Nobel prize for it. For such a young girl, and having gone through such a traumatic injury, she is definitely amazing.
Millicent was a woman’s’ right’s campaigner. Rather than a suffragette, she was a suffragist. These ladies were just as loud and important during the fight to vote, but rather than strapping themselves to railings, they were writing letters, talking to people and doing it a little more peacefully. I think we needed both types of women to win the right to vote, but I can see myself more as a suffragist, rather than a suffragette which is why this lady inspires me.
I have not long learnt a lot about this lady. Ste is extremely into Roman history and reads an awful lot. I read about Boudicca and what the Romans did to her and was horrified. To try and cut a long story short – when her husband died, she expected to take over their land and people and would continue to pay ‘rent’ to the Romans. However, the Romans were not happy with this and wanted complete control. They took this by raping Boudicca and her daughters (in front of their mother). She mounted an army, crusaded through the British Isles killing many Romans and destroying their settlements. Unfortunately she was killed in the Battle Of Watling Street but not before putting a large dent in their army to avenge what they did to her daughters, their people and the land.
This lady is stunning, has an amazing voice and is encouraging of all people. The speech she made at the MTV awards, to the public and addressed to her daughter, was epic and rather than write any more about her I thought I would just put that here to show the great woman and advocate that she is.
“I know I don’t have a lot of time, but if I may tell you a quick story. Recently, I was driving my daughter to school and she said to me, out of the blue, ‘Mama?’ I said, ‘Yes, baby?’ She said, ‘I’m the ugliest girl I know.’ And I said, ‘Huh?’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, I look like a boy with long hair.’ And my brain went to, ‘Oh my god, you’re six. Why? Where is this coming from? Who said this? Can I kick a 6-year-old’s ass, like what?’
But I didn’t say anything. Instead I went home and I made a Powerpoint presentation for her. And in that presentation were androgynous rockstars and artists that live their truth, are probably made fun of every day of their life, and carry on, wave their flag and inspire the rest of us. And these are artists like Michael Jackson and David Bowie and Freddie Mercury and Annie Lennox and Prince and Janis Joplin and George Michael, Elton John, so many artists — her eyes glazed over. But then I said, ‘You know, I really want to know why you feel this way about yourself.’ And she said, ‘Well I look like a boy,’ and I said, ‘Well what do you think I look like?’ And she said, ‘Well you’re beautiful.’ And I was like, ‘Well, thanks. But when people make fun of me, that’s what they use. They say I look like a boy or I’m too masculine or I have too many opinions, my body is too strong.’
And I said to her, ‘Do you see me growing my hair?’ She said, ‘No, mama.’ I said, ‘Do you see me changing my body?’ ‘No, mama.’ ‘Do you see me changing the way I present myself to the world?’ ‘No, mama.’ ‘Do you see me selling out arenas all over the world?’ ‘Yes, Mama.’ ‘OK! So, baby girl. We don’t change. We take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl. And we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.’
And to all the artists here, I’m so inspired by all of you. Thank you for being your true selves and for lighting the way for us. I’m so inspired by you guys. There’s so much rad shit happening in music. And keep doing it. Keep shining for the rest of us to see.
And you, my darling girl, are beautiful, and I love you. Thank you, MTV. This is a really special night. Thank you, Ellen. I couldn’t love you more. Thank you guys. Goodnight.” Pink, 2017
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first woman in Britain to practice medicine. She was so determined to become a doctor, she learnt French and travelled to Paris to get her qualifications, after being excluded from classes in Britain. She founded the New Hospital For Women, which was entirely staffed by women. She paved the way for rules to change, making it possible for women to study medicine in this country. I can only imagine not being given the option of seeing a lady doctor for certain things, so we owe this lady a lot for her dogged persistence.
Lauren is one of my favourite people on the planet and I am lucky enough to call her a friend. Not only does she battle with IBD, a stoma, a full time job as a teacher and being wife and mummy, she runs an incredible charity, Purple Wings. Lauren was one of the first people I told when the doctors told me they thought I would need an ostomy. She offered me support like no one else could, visited me and through her charity I gained my Purple Wings and a Time For Me grant. You can visit the Purple Wings website here – they are also on the look out for fundraisers and sponsors and I couldn’t recommend them highly enough for ostomates who got their stoma through IBD, or those facing ostomy surgery for support.
This is quite a recent ‘find’ for me. Amelia is a vlogger and I wanted to mention her in this list as I not only love her weekly vlogs, but the honesty with which she discusses her mental health problems is so refreshing and much needed so people understand how people ‘live’ with these conditions. Check out her channel here to see what I mean!
This lady always seemed a little ‘odd’ to me if I am honest. I appreciated the fact that she was happy enough in her own skin to wear what the hell she wanted, but the meat outfit and the egg thing…hmm! My opinion was completely changed by the documentary she made for Netflix though. I saw a sensitive, compassionate, beautiful soul. It chronicled the time leading up to her doing the Superbowl performance and you could see her health declining in front of your eyes. She was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia but this was unknown to her at this point, I think she blames it on a car accident that she had had years ago, and her obviously hectic schedule. When she is sat having her aching joints massaged by her assistant and comments to the camera, how do ordinary people get through their days with this pain and no help like I have, I thought she came across as really humble.