Charity of the Month…

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I know there are lots of campaigns at the moment, but I want to suggest a less discussed group. METUPUK are a patient advocacy group who push to promote issues related to secondary/metastatic cancer.

In the UK 31 women a day die from secondary breast cancer. Despite this secondary cancers are often less visible. People living with secondary cancer need better drug access, more drug trials and more awareness.

I was shocked when I learned that figure. I discovered it through an Instagram friend, who is living with secondary cancer. The lack of knowledge about a disease that effects so many people is appalling. Please consider making a donation if you can.

Pink cancer ribbon with the met up uk

My week in spooky season pictures…

It’s the October week holidays here. Of course that means some fun adventures & more spooky nails. It’s getting chilly out there, so I’ve been getting into the cosy looks.

I went a bit horror on the nails and tried out some chuckyish stitched wounds. I didn’t want them to be too gruesome, so nothing realistic here.

Pale white hands with stitched wound design manicure

On Wednesday we decided to introduce my nephew to a place my sis & I have loved since childhood. The Burrell Collection is an art gallery/museum in Glasgow that has recently reopened after a refurb and shake up of exhibits. The exhibits are presented in the most incredible building surrounded by woodlands, but in the middle of the city. It is one of my very favourite places and it was wonderful to see the boy enjoy it too.

Long white corridor leading to huge window looking out to forest

The revamp is great. They have maintained the heart of the collection whilst adding excellent interactive aspects. The boy loved playing the games & puzzles, all of which helped him better understand the exhibits. The cafe has a great vegan & child friendly menu. The Burrell also ticks the accessibility box. Lots of space to manoeuvre, lifts to all exhibits, loads of places to sit down when you need to rest.

White woman and child playing an interactive game
The Burrell Collection interior
The Burrell Collection interiors

After The Burrell we checked out the also revamped swing park. Thus I needed to be both cosy and waterproof. I opted for this lovely jumper dress & light weight rain jacket; both presents from my Mum.

Fat white women with hands on her hips wearing blue jumper dress& khaki rain mac
Dress – In The Style
Rain Max – Marks & Spencer
Tights – Pretty Polly
Glasses – Where Light

I chipped my Chucky nails, necessitating a premature change. I went for some creepy trees and sparkly bats. Let’s hope I can manage not to wreck this design right away.

My nephew has recently developed a love for golf; crazy golf in particular. Today we indulged that new found passion with a trip to Paradise Golf. He loved it, claiming two hole in ones & ultimately the game. Auntie ly struggled a little, but luckily I had my perfect little man to play for me when I needed a sit down.

Child playing crazy golf

We had a little sushi for lunch, picked up some shark wellies & grabbed a doughnut before heading home. It’s always too hot at Xscape and I kept that in mind when choosing my outfit. I wore a bunch of old favs today including my comfy shoes & a skirt with pockets!

Fat white woman with hands on her hips wearing swing skirt and t shirt
T-Shirt – Curated By Girls
Skirt – Lindy Bop
Tights – Snag
Pillow Slides – Primark

Haunted…

It’s that time of year again. Yup, that’s right, Spooky Season! I love a bit halloweeny fun, especially on my nails. I’m a bit slow off the mark this year, but I have loads more spooky designs planned.

I eased into the Halloween nails with a cute little crescent moon & love heart web.

Hands with lilac manicure with black crescent moon,  cat & spider web

A little glitter made these drippy, swirly nails a sparkly spook.

Park white hands with purple manicure with white swirls and glittery black drips

Currently sporting my favourite so far. I tried The Shining themed nails before, but I think I nailed (!) it this time.

The shining themed manicure

Also in keeping with the season are my new (to me) Iron Fist shoes. Fangs & leopard print, what more could a girl want? I missed these when they were in the shops, but found a brand new, unworn pair on Vinted. Thrifting win.

Tattooed pale white feet in shoes with Leopard fangs and black cat
Pale white feet in Leopard print flats and black cat

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More than embarrassing…

We’re all familiar with the reminder letters and campaigns urging us not to miss our cervical smear test. We are rightly told how important they are in detecting cancers early. I’m glad these tests are available. I am also happy that we are educated on why these tests are so necessary. However, I find myself increasingly frustrated with the messaging.

So often when a person or organisation wants to encourage people to attend cervical screenings they focus on how easy it is. We’re told it is silly to be embarrassed and it will be over in a flash. Don’t risk your life over 5 mins of feeling awkward is repeated. Smear tests are confidently declared to be not painful. Just a little discomfort, nothing to worry about. While that might be true for lots, it is not full the picture. The patronising assumption that people miss smear tests because they’re self-conscious is harmful. Many people have valid reasons for their reticence. Addressing those issues would be a more effective way of increasing uptake numbers.

Research from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Rape crisis revealed that 72% of women who have experienced sexual violence have skipped or delayed a smear test. When you consider that at least 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted you can begin to understand the scale of the issue.

Birth trauma & pregnancy loss also impact a significant portion of those who require smear tests. Gynae exams & cervical screening require being in vulnerable positions that can trigger a trauma response. Recent research is finding that baby loss & birth trauma often results in PTSD. So, it’s easy to see why a smear test would be not a easy exam for those who are affected.

There are also medical conditions/physicalitys that can make a smear test very difficult. Conditions like ,vaginisimus, endometriosis, cervical ectropion and more can make smear tests painful or difficult. Cervical position, vaginal dryness, menopausal changes and FGM can also impact how a smear test feels.

Trans men may find smear tests hard for all obvious reason. Dysphoria, stigma, discrimination and more. I’m sure everyone can understand how having to deal with any or all of those things is a frightening prospect. It can also be difficult to access information; trans men may not be invited for cervical screening, there is confusion about who requires the test etc. Of course this may be combined with any of the other issues on this list.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I just want to be clear that there are many real reason for a person to avoid cervical screening. That being said, how can we make it easier? Well, there are actually a lot of accommodations you can ask for. I don’t see this talked about enough, so I wanted to share that information.

Before I get into the details, I want to be clear that you do not have to disclose anything you are not ready to discuss. You can ask for accommodations without revealing your trauma.

Before the Test

You can ask you GP to take your name off the automatic reminder list if those letters are distressing.

Ask for the test to be performed by a person of your preferred gender.

If you have an established relationship with a Dr/Nurse you can ask to have them do your smear test.

Make an appointment to talk about the smear test. Discuss anything you need to talk about. Be that how the test is done, why is it done, your fears, worries etc.

Request a double appointment to allow time breaks, extra time.

Plan what you will do after the test. You may not feel up to returning to work or you might not want to be alone.

The Test

Take an emotional support person to the appointment.

Request a chaperone be present for the test.

Ask to talk through the ‘mechanics’ of the test before you start. Have the Dr/Nurse show you the instruments used.

Tell the person performing the test any words or phrases that could be triggering for you. If there are words of comfort that are helpful for you ask them to use those.

Explain how heavy/light a touch you are comfortable. If there are areas you would like them to avoid touching if possible, tell the Dr/Nurse.

Ask to insert the speculum yourself.

If you are concerned about specific trauma/pain response discuss that with the Dr/Nurse. For example tell them this part of the exam is usually painful for me or I might be unable to chat/answer questions.

Agree a plan of action beforehand; what would you like to happen if you are triggered/pain is too much. You can decide on a word or sign to use if you are in distress.

Combatting Pain/Distress

Mindfulness Techniques – Exercises like naming three things you can see, smell, hear can help route you in the now.

Distraction – Play music, make small talk with Dr/Nurse, your support person.

Squared Breathing – This sometimes helps me get through acute pain/the onset of panic. Breath in for 4, hold for 4, breath out for 4, hold for 4. Repeat.

Take a comforting object. Fidget object. Scent that invokes calming feeling. Hold support person’s hand.

Discuss having medication prescribed. Things like benzodiazepines can help with anxiety, allow your body to be less tense. Maybe you need a stronger pain medication to deal with the test/after effects.

Know Your Limits

It is ok to stop at any point. If any part of the process becomes too much, stop. You can reschedule the appointment. It is ok to try as many times as you need. This test is for you. You are not obligated to fit into anyone else’s timeline or expectations.

Smear test are an important part of early cancer detection, but your whole health & well being are equally important. Shaming people or dismissing the reason for their reluctance does not help. If we are to increase the uptake rates we need to acknowledge what is actually preventing people from attending. We also need to facilitate ways to address those concerns.

If you require more support you can contact :

My Body Back Project

Rape Crisis (Helpline – 08088 01 03 02)

Action For Trans Health

Jo’s Trust

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A very big house in the country…

It was my birthday last week. I have reached the enormous age of 42 and it was a chill affair. I spent the actual day with my wonderful bestie and her little monkeys. Then at the weekend I was whisked off for a lovely surprise. I was instructed to pack a bag and bring a swimsuit. No further information was forthcoming.

We set off early on rainy Saturday morning and four ish hours later we arrived at Thainstone House. The sun was shining up north and our destination was perfect. A beautiful country house hotel set in gorgeous grounds. Complete with swimming pool & spa; I was in heaven.

Country house hotel covered in Ivy
Thainstone House

My Mum & Sister were behind the treat. Of course my nephew was along for the ride. We had a weekend of fine dining, swimming and carry on in luxury setting. It was a gorgeous birthday present.

Is it a hotel stay without a pic in my pants?

After dinner and late swim on Saturday we introduced the boy to Monopoly. He had been dying to try it and it turns out he is a shark. He showed no mercy as he bought up streets and flung hotels on them. His absolute glee every time I landed in jail was hilarious.

On our way home we stopped in Inverurie for a little shopping and outfit photos. The boy managed to leave with a monster truck & Gran stocked up on enough expensive scarfs to last a good few winters. All in all a successful weekend.

Not bad for an old bird.