Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe- Female Reproductive System Update -Judith Barrow – Breast Cancer Survivor.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

Following on from last week’s posts on the female reproductive system a repeat of a guest post during the original series in 2016. Judith Barrow is a breast cancer survivor and shares her story.

First a look at the statistics

Breast cancer is the top cancer in women worldwide and is increasing particularly in developing countries where the majority of cases are diagnosed in late stages.

521,900: The estimated number of breast cancer deaths in women worldwide in 2012 which is the last complete reporting date.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women; however, when looking just at developed countries, lung cancer was the most common cause of cancer death in 2012, surpassing breast cancer. This change reflects the tobacco epidemic in these women, which occurred later than in men, according to the report.  Also, the incidence of breast cancer is increasing in the developing world due to increase life expectancy, increase urbanization and adoption of western lifestyles.

It is estimated that there were 1.7 million new cases diagnosed in 2012. However, this figure does not include women who develop the disease in countries where there is little health care and zero reporting of the statistics.

The good news is the survival rates have increased with earlier detection, more targeted treatments and better medication.

Breast cancer survival rates vary greatly worldwide, ranging from 80% or over in North America, Sweden and Japan to around 60% in middle-income countries and below 40% in low-income countries (Coleman et al., 2008). The low survival rates in less developed countries can be explained mainly by the lack of early detection programmes, resulting in a high proportion of women presenting with late-stage disease, as well as by the lack of adequate diagnosis and treatment facilities.

Source: http://www.who.int/cancer/detection/breastcancer/en/index1.html

Smorgasbord Health 2017

Now for this very personal story from Judith Barrow.

My thanks to one of the kindest and most supportive bloggers here on WordPress. Judith Barrow is also a wonderful author and her books have received amazing reviews. You can find out all about them at the end of the post.

Judith has had a complicated relationship with her breasts as she relates in her story but it became even more complex when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was over twenty years ago and one of the most important messages that I took from her excellent article is ‘Be bloody persistent‘ with your doctor…

You know your body better than anyone and if you believe that there is something that is different about your breasts and it persists for more than a week go and get it CHECKED. Don’t worry about wasting a doctor’s time as it is your time you need to be more concerned about.

As I have mentioned before, these articles are also for the men in our lives who also know us intimately. They too can spot changes in our bodies and also our general health, sometimes faster than we can.

MY BREASTS  BY JUDITH BARROW

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 I’ve always had a strange relationship with my breasts. They seem to have been a separate part of me since they started to grow–unwelcome–at the age of twelve. I was still into climbing trees, playing football; being one of ‘the boys’. The only thing they didn’t interfere with was my reading and writing, unless, of course, I chose to read or write lying on the floor on my stomach.

They were painful arriving. (I thought of them as appearing as unexpected guests in my body, much, I suppose, as I thought of the cancer, thirty years later). I left it as long as I could before asking my mother if she thought I needed a bra. She looked surprised; I suppose I was on the plump side and she hadn’t noticed. Anyway, off she went to Littlewoods store in Oldham to buy the most boring, white cotton bra she could find for me. (I made up for it in my later teens by buying the most exotic colourful bra and pants set I could find).

Those swellings on my chest grew to a size 36D by the time I was fourteen. Sport, my great love at the time, was curtailed by the bouncing around of those bloody boobs until I had the wit to fasten them in with two bras. Away from sport, the next two years saw me wearing the baggiest jumpers and all-encompassing coats I could find

It wasn’t until I left school after my GCEs and was in the Civil Service that I found out what an asset my now 38DD breasts could be. I didn’t dress in a provocative way (with a father like mine I wouldn’t have got away with that, even at the age of eighteen) but I made the most of fashion in the early seventies and, except for my breasts, I was slender. I passed interviews, gained promotions, without many an all-male board looking higher than my chest. I doubt some of them would have recognised me if they passed me in the corridors of those Government buildings. I knew what they were doing, but in those days girls had to put up with such Neanderthal behaviour; those who you could complain to were some of the ones acting like that. It angered me, but as far as I was concerned I gained my promotions justifiably: I was hard-working, efficient, organised; quick-thinking in every grade as I progressed. And I wasn’t going to change the way I was. Such behaviour would have them drummed out of their jobs now.

Even at that age, and working, my father didn’t allow me to date but I did manage to sneak out sometimes on the occasional date. But I was adamant; my breasts were mine; nobody touched!

Until I was married to David. My breasts became fun! And, for five years I revelled in my shape.

Then I had my eldest daughter. During the pregnancy my breasts ballooned; I felt a little bit like the figurehead on the front of a large sailing ship. After the birth, determined to breast feed I struggled for days until one of the nurses on the ward declared I was one of those mothers with ‘large boobs and no nipples’. My breasts were useless; hopeless in the function they were intended for. They’d let me down. Within days I got mastitis. The treatment was pain relief and to bind them. Tight. I was a failure. After a fortnight there was the grand unveiling of my chest. The health visitor pronounced she was satisfied. I wasn’t; these flattened breasts were someone else’s, not mine.

However I came to terms with them.

Then, after two years, I was pregnant again. This time, I’d be prepared; I knew what to do. Two months into the pregnancy, the midwife gave me nipple shields, hard rubber covers whose purpose was to extend the nipples to enable breast-feeding after the birth. In the end they didn’t work but, boy, were they useful when pushing through crowds.

The twins were unexpected; we only found out I was having them six weeks before they were born. The mastitis came back. And so did those damn crepe bandages.

It was eighteen months afterwards that I found my first lump. I was terrified. I had three children under three, my husband’s business was just taking off so he was working all hours of the day to keep our heads above water, and the rest of our family lived over two hundred miles away. My father forbid my mother to come and help; it was his opinion that we’d chosen to live in Wales, over two hundred miles away, why should she have to go all over the country to visit us; to help? We’d made our bed; we’d have to lie in it.

We did. We managed. I had an operation to have the lump removed. The lump was a cyst; benign.

As were the lumps I found and had removed on a regular basis over the next ten years.

Until ‘the one’. I knew it was different; it followed on from an abscess I’d had in the other breast. After two operations, a month of walking around with a drain in the abscess and daily visits from the district nurse, I’d taken my eye off the ball, so to speak.

And then, when I was well again, our eldest grandson was born. It was a time of celebrations.

So that morning, during a belated check when I found the lump, I knew. It wasn’t painful; it wasn’t hard; this was different.

Off to the doctors, then to hospital. I think the specialist was fed-up seeing me. ‘It’s the same as always, Mrs Barrow,’ he said. ‘No more needless operations. Ignore it, go home, enjoy the rest of your life.’ I tell no lie, those were his exact words.

Going home, we were stunned. But in a way, relieved.

‘He must know what he’s talking about,’ I said to David.

‘What do you think?’ he said.

‘It’s different.’ But I wanted to believe it wasn’t.

After days of argument he persuaded me to go back to the doctors.

It was round about the time that doctors’ surgeries first held their own budgets; our doctor agreed to send me to Cardiff University Hospital. There was money to pay for another check-up. But only a for second opinion, nothing else.

I remember that morning so well. I think what I noticed most was the quiet, the hushed whispers below the hubbub of the clinic; the rattle of trolley, the constant ringing of the telephone, the rustle of the nurses’ uniform, their voices confident as they went about their duties. We were a motley crew, those of us sitting on the grey plastic chairs; all at different stages of our breast cancers. Or potential cancers. There were the women–and two men– some accompanied by anxious relatives, others alone, who were quite obviously, like me, waiting for a verdict, a diagnosis of what they most dreaded. Then there were the others, some clad in headscarves, others unselfconsciously devoid of all hair. Some frail- looking, some, glowing with health. All with that air of waiting.

I’d forgotten to bring anything to read; to take my mind off why we were there; to take my attention away from my husband and his constant nervous drumming of his fingers on his knees.

The only magazines I could see were either about rock climbing or windsurfing. I kid you not. Someone had either donated them in the belief it would be something for us poor benighted souls to look forward to–or those publications had found their way from another ward. Perhaps the Orthopaedic ward? That thought gave me an unexpected inward laugh.

Eventually we were called in to see the specialist for an examination and then I was sent for a mammogram. After an hour we were taken to the specialist again and I was told I would need to have a biopsy. This had never happened previously; I’d just found the lump, had it confirmed as a lump, and had it removed. I suppose I thought it was different because we’d asked for a second opinion. They took a small sample of the lump out for examination. We waited for the result for hours. I can’t describe how I felt: it was as though it wasn’t really happening; I worried about the children, who we’d left with friends, I worried about David and how he would cope if the test came back positive How I would cope.

It did. I did. We did.

Thankfully the hospital ignored budgets.

When Sally asked me to write this post I didn’t want to labour over the operations, or the follow-up treatments and procedures. We got through them together, David and I, we were made stronger. Are stronger.

What having cancer did do for me, was to tell me that I should be brave enough, determined enough to live as I’d wanted; to share some of the pieces I’d been writing, secreting away, for years.   So I did. And in those early years, I had poems, short stories published. Then I went further; I took a degree in English Literature, then a diploma in drama and, finally a Masters in creative writing. I wrote four novels. Five years ago I had the first of my trilogy published by Honno, an independent press for women. Quite apt I think.

Now I run one-to one workshops for creative writing and classes for adults with the local council.

My breast and I have called a truce. I agree to check, they agree not to produce any lumps.

And I have celebrated every day of these last twenty years.

I hope all of you, diagnosed today, can do the same.

About Judith Barrow

I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing. I’ve had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles, notably in several Honno anthologies. My play, It’s Friday so it must be Fish was performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea. A short film was made of my play, My Little Philly, and toured the Indie Festival. I am also a Creative Writing tutor and run workshops on all genres.

When I’m not writing I spend time doing research for my writing, walking the Pembrokeshire countryside or organising the letting of our holiday apartment Saddleworth House.

Judith’s Books

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Links to Buy Judith’s books
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6
Honno: http://www.honno.co.uk/dangos.php?ISBN=9781906784058
The You Tube link:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ft1HGNvfY3k
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3295663.Judith_Barrow

Websites and Social Media
Website: http://www.judithbarrow.co.uk
Website: wwwjudithbarrow.com
Blog: judithbarrowblog.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/judithabarrow
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3/about

My thanks to Judith for her down to earth and frank post about her survival from breast cancer.. An inspiration.

Please share so that it reaches as many women as possible.. thank you Sally

 

 

Smorgasbord Women’s Health revisited – The Importance of Friends by author Olga Núñez Miret


smorgasbord health

For those just joining this series, we are revisiting posts from last year from the Women’s Health Week. Since then all of our communities have grown and to be honest health messages are well worth repeating regularly. I asked Olga if she would write a piece about the importance of a support system when going through a traumatic experience, particularly when it is health related.. She produced this amazing article that I am sure you will find both interesting and inspiring. Even if we are not going through difficult times, there are those that we are close to who are. Being there for them, in person or virtually can make a huge difference as I have found out in the past myself.

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The Importance of Friends by author Olga Núñez Miret

Thanks so much to Sally for asking me to participate in her series of posts to celebrate national girlfriends’ day with a week of posts on women’s health. It’s a very important topic and one close to my heart.

I’m a doctor, a psychiatrist, a writer and translator, and evidently, I’m a woman. Although I’m not working in psychiatry at the moment, I worked for nearly ten years in male psychiatric units (because I worked in Forensic Psychiatry and secure units, like prisons, are segregated by gender. There was a move to do the same with general psychiatric units and in some places it took place, not everywhere, but that’s another topic) and I got used to talking to men about their specific health topics. But, I was also part of the Mental Health Trust group dealing with Physical Health issues (they tend to be forgotten and much more problematic to treat in patients with chronic mental health problems) and we had some great presentations and discussions looking at topics that affected women’s health.

We talked about staff, we talked about relatives or carers, but we didn’t talk about friends that much, although they are very important.

I was checking some articles about the benefits of having friends for your health, and all seem to conclude pretty much the same, having friends is good for your health, for your heart, and people with a good group of friends live longer. People respond better to treatments, suffer less pain… Of course the point is also made that some friends can be stressful and of course, we’ll worry more about the people we care more about. Older people who are lonely have higher blood pressure and sleep worse. Women’s friendships tend to be more geared towards empathy, sharing and listening, that is what we most need when we’re worried and concerned about our health. (Men’s friendships tend to be about companionship and helping each other with practical things, or that’s at least what the articles suggested).

There was a meta-study in 2010 at Brigham Young University (a study looking at the result of 148 previous studies) with a total of more than 300,000 participants where they concluded that people with high or adequate social relationships were 50% more likely to survive in the next five yearsthan those who didn’t. They summarised the negative effects of low social interaction as follows:

–As bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

–As dangerous as being an alcoholic.

–As harmful as never exercising.

–Twice as dangerous as obesity.

(Check the whole article here: http://www.forbes.com/2010/08/24/health-relationships-longevity-forbes-woman-well-being-social-isolation.html)

You might also find these articles interesting:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/friendships/art-20044860

http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/good-friends-are-good-for-you

And this blog post, with Infographic incorporated:

http://www.fix.com/blog/health-benefits-of-friendship/

You might be wondering the reason why having friends is healthy (and I’m sure you have your own theories and you’re likely right). Nobody knows for sure although there are suggestions that the support reduces stress that has a negative impact on many aspects of our health (both physically and mentally). It is also quite likely that if we surround ourselves with friends who look after themselves, have healthy habits, exercise and lead an active life, we will adjust our living style to match theirs. That’s one of the reasons why so many gyms and initiatives encourage people to buddy up and go to the gym with a friend as it’s likely that you’ll spur each other and keep going, motivation becoming less of an issue.

Being a doctor people regularly tell me about their medical concerns even if they are not my patients and that includes relatives, friends, neighbours, and people I work with… But in my heart of hearts I hope that many might ask me not only because I am a doctor but because I am a friend.

I’ve been with female friends at difficult times. I went with a friend to hospital when she was pregnant and worried because she was bleeding (unfortunately she has a miscarriage a few days later), and I spent time with her when that happened, I’ve accompanied friends when they‘ve had tests, I’ve visited sick friends and colleagues post-operation. Sometimes one feels a bit weird about these things, especially if perhaps you’ve only known the person in a certain role (as a work colleague, for example) and you don’t know their personal history that well. But I ask and take advice. I recall when I hadn’t been in the UK very long and was doing my first job as a junior doctor training in psychiatry; the daughter of one of the male nurses who worked in the same ward I was working had a terrible car accident and was left in a coma. I also knew the mother of the girl, who was also a psychiatric nurse and worked in the day hospital. Although things have changed now, at the time we lived in accommodation within the grounds of the hospital (again, another story), so I went to visit the girl most days after work, if I wasn’t on-duty. Luckily the girl recovered (and became a psychiatric nurse like her parents) although it took a few weeks. I wasn’t sure I did much other than be there, but I became very friendly with the family and they were very thankful. As I was saying, it’s difficult to know what might help, but don’t hesitate to offer your support if you can.

Living alone and not having relatives close by, I’ve also relied on friends when I’ve had minor interventions that meant I couldn’t drive or should not be left by myself (not that easy when your friends don’t live nearby and the hospital is elsewhere). And of course I’ve talked about health concerns with friends too. When I had a health scare a few years back, and I had booked to visit my friend Iman, an A&E nurse, in Paris, she insisted I get tests there. It wasn’t much of a holiday, but I’m very grateful to her and her family for their support.

In these modern days, sometimes we might have a lot of connections (the jury is still out with regards to how much virtual connections help. All the studies refer to actual people you know and you can depend upon, and that’s more difficult when somebody might be thousands of miles away) but a non-virtual girlfriend is quite a handy thing to have. And the more, the merrier.

Here I leave you a few links to sites talking about Women’s Health.

The NHS link:

http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/Category.aspx?CategoryID=60

http://www.healthywomen.org/ (It includes a part for professionals, blogs, community…)

US government site:

https://www.womenshealth.gov/

http://www.webmd.com/women/

Thanks again and please follow the whole series and don’t forget to check on your friends!

Olga Nuñez Miret-amazon-author-The Writer Next Door

Olga Núñez Miret was born in Barcelona and moved to the UK to study in the 1990’s. She is a doctor and also a Forensic Psychiatrist until recently when she gave this up to pursue her dream of writing full time. Her fiction covers a number of genres including crime thriller, family saga, para-normal and romance. Olga is also a translator and works with other authors to introduce their books to a new and wider audience.

Olga’s books can be found in a number of formats including audio and are available in Spanish.

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Olga has used her experience and insights in three works of fiction that follow Mary, a psychiatrist and writer, and her adventures in the series Escaping Psychiatry: She has recently released the prequel  Escaping Psychiatry – Beginnings.

The first of her books to be published as e-book (October 2012) is The Man Who Never Was also available in Spanish version: El hombre que nunca existió. In February 2013 she published a Young Adult novella in English Twin Evils? and Spanish Gemela Maldad.

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In June 2013 she published her first foray in romantic fiction: Click Me Happy! A novella where readers can choose between three endings, an unhappy, a neutral and a happy one. Now also available in paperback.

In May 2014 she published Family, Lust and Cameras a novella in the psychological thriller style. And in June 2014 her book ‘Escaping Psychiatry’ became available in audiobook, narrated by Emmy Award winner actor and writer Alan Cooke (a.k.a Wild Irish Poet). A light hearted romance for those of us who are addicted cookery shows followed with I Love Your Cupcakes.

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Olga’s latest release is a trilogy – Angelic Business and all three books in the trilogy have been released in English and Spanish.

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To buy her books and to reach Olga through social media here are her links

Amazon –https://www.amazon.com/author/olganm
Goodreads –http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6562510.Olga_N_ez_Miret

Audio bookshttp://authortranslatorolga.com/my-audiobooks/

Social Media

Website –http://www.olganm.com/
Blog- http://authortranslatorolga.com/
Facebook –https://www.facebook.com/OlgaNunezMiret
Twitter- https://twitter.com/OlgaNM7

Thanks so much for dropping in and would love your feedback.. If you read last year you might still consider sharing to your new and wider audience to help spread the message.. Sally