High Fanny Five, it’s Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month.

*Correction, it isn’t Gynaecological Cancer Awareness month, I’m lying. It was last month. I won’t pretend I wrote this in September, because I didn’t. So let’s look past this little mishap and carry on with the post! 

 

IT WAS GYNAECOLOGICAL CANCER AWARENESS MONTH and I was all over it on the Gash Gossip Instagram. However if you didn’t see any of those posts, I’m here to tell you the importance of knowing all FIVE of the gynaecological cancers, as well as the signs and symptoms, right here, right now. 

Each year in the UK, over 21,000 women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer. Even with that staggering figure, there is still not enough awareness in women, and men, about what we should all be looking out for. Knowing our bodies and getting an early diagnosis means a better chance of life. And I’m personally, all for that.

So let’s jump straight in shall we? What are the FIVE gynaecological cancers? (Before reading on, name them quickly in your head and see if you know them. If you do, you’re a STAR!)

  • Cervical Cancer 
  • Ovarian Cancer 
  • Womb Cancer
  • Vaginal Cancer 
  • Vulva Cancer

Up until last year, I didn’t know I had a vulva. So that is one gynae cancer I definitely wasn’t aware of. In fact, I’d probably only heard cervical and ovarian cancer being spoken of, the others I didn’t think I needed to worry about. Wait, let me rephrase that, because I don’t need to worry and neither do youwe just need to be aware

I know I badger on about everything vagina related being important, but it really is. Especially when you consider that 2/3 women wouldn’t consult their GP for persistent bloating, a common symptom of ovarian cancer. Or that 1.28 million women didn’t go for their routine smear test when invited, which can detect pre-cancerous cells in the cervix. And 73% of women didn’t know where their vulva was, like me. There has never been so much awareness on the topic, so I’ve got to do my bit and spread the word too. I want you guys (who are mainly my family and friends ) to clue yourselves up, if you aren’t already, on these less publicised cancers. 

 

Cervical Cancer

The cervix connects a woman’s womb and vagina. 

The most common symptom is unusual vaginal bleeding, which can occur during or after sex, between periods or new bleeding after the menopause.* 

The best way to protect yourself, is to attend your cervical screening (smear test). 

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer and is often detected late. Knowing what to look out for is key.

Signs and symptoms include increased abdominal size and persistent bloating. Not bloating that comes and goes. 

Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain. 

Unexplained change in bowel habits. 

Difficulty eating, feeling full quickly or feeling nauseous. 

Womb Cancer

Womb cancer can also be referred to as uterine cancer or endometrial cancer, which is cancer within the lining of the womb. 

The most common symptom of womb cancer is again, irregular bleeding. For example, bleeding after the menopause or between periods.

Bleeding that is unusually heavy or vaginal discharge that is blood-stained or brown in colour.*

Vulva Cancer 

The vulva is the external part of the female genitals. The outer and inner ‘lips’ of the vulva, are the labia majora and labia minora. 

It is a rare cancer, with just over 1,000 cases diagnosed a year in the UK.

Key signs can include, persistent itching and pain or soreness. 

Thickened, raised, red, white or dark patches of skin on the surface. 

An open sore or visible growth. 

A mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour. 

A lump or swelling on the vulva.

Vaginal Cancer

A very rare disease. 

Unexpected bleeding.*

Discharge that smells or may be blood-stained. 

Vaginal pain during sex. 

A vaginal itch that won’t go away and pain whilst weeing. 

Persistent pelvic and vagina pain. 

 

*Please note that most people with abnormal bleeding do not have gynaecological cancer, but always get bleeding checked!

 

Listen, I was the first person to run and hide from anything that dared mention the word, ‘cancer’. I avoided knowing anything about the disease for years because I was scared of it. But obviously that is no way to beat it and tell it to bugger off. There is no cure, yet, so in the meantime we need to make sure we know our stuff. If you’re ever worried, seek professional medical help, and if that doesn’t settle your worries, go and seek it again. And again, and again, until you are satisfied. 

I got bleeding checked 3-4 times as I knew the symptom could have meant something sinister. I was sent to the hospital where they then found abnormalities on my cervix. These abnormalities were pre-cancerous cells. If I hadn’t have gone to the doctor for whatever reason, the outcome could have potentially been a lot worse. 

 

75% of vaginal cancer cases are preventable. 

The Eve Appeal funded researchers have developed a new screening test that may be able to detect ovarian cancer up to two years earlier than current approaches.

99.8% of cervical cancers in the UK are preventable. The screening programming in the UK is estimated to save 4,000 lives each year. 

We need to make sure that everyone has all of the information.

Gossip about gynaecological cancers and save lives. 

 

If you are concerned, or would like more detailed information, I recommend the following:

 

S xxx

The Words I Never Thought I’d Say.

I MISS THE PILL. 

THERE. 

I SAID IT, OKAY?

*Let’s out a cry of despair*  

I tried to be this new age, hormone-free woman, but I don’t know if I can hack this menstruating life. How do you all do it? How have you got through life so far, whilst bleeding every, bloody, month?

I’m being over dramatic as usual, but after 11 years of ‘fake’ periods, mild cramps and only a slight feeling of impending doom… these past couple of months have been a whole new world. And no, not a new fantastic point of view. There were no pet tigers or magic carpets involved, which has been hugely disappointing.

I was lulled into a false sense of security when I first came off the pill 6 months ago. Going back and reading my previous blog post makes me want to punch the positive, shiny, me in the face. My body hadn’t had enough time to re-adjust. Whereas now, I’ve had some time to experience how being au natural really effects my body, mind and that all important time of the month. So here is my latest review of being contraception free, the pros and cons, the good, the bad, and the UGLY

PROS of being off the contraceptive pill

  • No alarm at 7pm everyday telling me it’s time to take my pill. Peace at last.
  • Feeling lighter.
  • No panic sweats when I stay out and my pill packet is still lying on my bedside table, unopened. 
  • A little less plastic and paper waste.
  • Better bowel movements. Mostly. I won’t talk too much about my poo. But just know my poos are good. 
  • No extra oestrogen coursing through my body. 
  • I’m giving my body a hormonal break after 11 years. Surely that’s a good thing?
  • There is no concrete evidence that the pill had caused the ectropion on my cervix, which was causing me to bleed after sex… but I no longer bleed after sex anymore! Which is a party!
  • Proper periods… although this counts as both a pro and a con I suppose. 

 

CONS of being off the contraceptive pill

  • The PMS. Oh, the PMS. The PMS is terrible. Poor, poor Matthew (Matthew: long suffering boyfriend and engineer extraordinaire). 
  • The “I’m definitely pregnant!” scare which lasts approximately 2 days and includes worrying about how we’d afford nappies and a pushchair. 
  • Teenage acne coming back to haunt me. Having not had problem skin for a couple of years, I’ve been waking up with boulders between my eye brows. I have been forced to invest in some good, (way too) expensive, skin-care. Now anything sugary that passes my lips, is sure to result in a white head within 4 hours. 
  • More irregular periods. It’s never the same every month. Hence the “I’M PREGNANT!” scare that happens frequently. 
  • The fatigue. I have little energy before, during and the week after my period. Yes, I’ve eaten lots of spinach and yes I take supplements, I’m still a walking, bleeding, zombie.
  • CRAMPIN’ HELL! This sh*t hurts.
  • Heavier periods.
  • Condoms. I mean, what a faff. Great if you’re more of a free-spirit, but not so much over in our house. Right, engineer extraordinaire? 

 

I have to be honest, if I didn’t have all these ‘fake news’ articles floating round my head about the effects of the contraceptive pill, I would probably still be on it. It’s these that are stopping me from running down to the pharmacy tomorrow, and ordering my repeat prescription. 

(Oh bugger), was really hoping I would end up some kind of transcendent, ethereal, goddess of no-added hormones and living my best natural life. Instead, I’m living a natural life of turbulent PMS, bouts of anaemia and downing peppermint tea, whilst changing my tampon. Maybe I just need to take that on the chin, and accept that that’s what having a womb is all about. 

We do this every month though, don’t we? Literal blood, sweat and tears. I do think that’s great, even when it’s hard. We turn up for work on time, boss that meeting, leak into our knickers, run for the train, pick up our kids from school, double over in pain, don’t cancel on friends, go out for that drink, pull out our tampon or Mooncup in another public toilet, and still manage to laugh and be amazing, glowing humans.

This all feels relatively new to me, even at 25 years old, but through all the bad and the ugly, periods are something that should be celebrated. And certainly acknowledged. 

Could someone with a penis do it? I’d love to find out. 

Sorry, couldn’t resist. 

 

Power and positivity to all of you coming on, midway through or just coming off your period. That’s another one ticked off the list (only another 290 to go!) 

S x

 

 

Our TERRIBLE Sex Education – Part 1.

It is the year 2000. The millennial era is about to hit the UK. A new generation of technological, #feminist, vegan, strong, no nonsense kids are being raised. A time when young women will feel empowered to write blogs about their fannies and the British government will self implode. So much will change in this Millennium, and let’s hope one of them is the t e r r i b l e sex education that our young people receive (and our Prime Minister). 

 

I’m 8 years old and sitting on the blue carpet in Miss Lindley’s class room. Today is the day. The letters were sent home and we have come prepared, and a little bit confused, to learn about… 

S E !

 

“A lesson on how babies are made, what couples get up to when they love each other and an activity that is strictly for adults.” – (Sex Education in the 2000’s)

Sat crossed legged, on that itchy flooring, my childhood crush sat behind me (Daniel, heart-throb of year 4), I thought I was about to watch something very educational and essential to my existence. Instead, I watched a cartoon man and woman running around a house. I don’t know if they were naked, because their genitals were non-existent. Their gender was, instead, uniquely demonstrated by the colour of their cartoon skin. Blue and pink *eye-roll*. 

“How do they wee?!” I asked. Daniel laughed. 

The man was chasing the woman with a feather duster. First, they were in the kitchen. Then on the stairs. Then in the bedroom. He kept tickling her with the duster and she enjoyed this so much, that she lay down on the bed and he belly flopped on top of her.

“And that’s sex.” The teacher said, or words to that affect. “Now let’s watch what happens after sex. Some of you may want to leave the room at this point, and that’s absolutely fine.” 

The VHS tape then cut to a real-life, up close shot of a baby coming out of a vagina. Cue a small number of bottoms leaving that blue, itchy carpet to be excused. I can distinctively remember this bit, it was fascinating. I didn’t realise the exit hole was THAT SMALL. I still thought a baby would come out of the hole I weed out of. I still thought the whole reason adults had sex was to make a baby. Therefore my parents had only had sex 3 times. In that moment I realised I thought a lot of things, and none of them were true.  

Anyway, that was that. Two cartoons had sex. A baby was born. And Daniel still didn’t fancy me. I had learnt that in order to make someone have sex with me, I needed to carry some sort of household cleaning utensil however. 

Later on, at the age of 14, I would receive a ‘booster’ sex education lesson, br

iefly talking about periods, using condoms, STI’s and questions from the back of the class like, 

“Miss, can my dick break in half?”

It is safe to say I have learnt more about sex since coming out of school then I ever did during. I’ve learnt about it through experience, mistakes, Google, porn, TV, vagina related hospital visits, confiding in friends, and hilarious chats around my parents kitchen table. So I guess it hasn’t been all that bad.

But I had to endure school, crazy French teachers and learn how to use a Bunsen burner, the least I deserved was some good info on my vag! The place from which we all came from. 

The fundamental sexual education I received during my 12 years of school, was a big fat joke. And I’m not the only one. Here are some other brief, true, sex ed experiences from the early 2000’s:

  • More puberty based lessons than sexual education. Hair growth, voice changes, growing boobs and barely anything about genitals.  
  • Not a word on consent. 
  • Men need to masturbate but there was nothing on female masturbation or pleasure. 
  • Lessons were not inclusive of LGBTQ+ relationships.
  • Sticking a tampon in a bowl of Ribena to show how it will collect period blood. 
  • Watching ‘Juno’. 
  • A video of robot aliens visiting children in their beds at night, asking how humans procreate…
  • Being taught by someone who was, and always had been, celibate.
  • A man puts his penis inside a vagina and cums. That’s sex, kids!
  • Classes were separated based on gender. Girls learnt about their period. Boys put condoms on various pieces of fruit. 
  • Sitting in a circle passing round a banana. Everyone got to stick a condom on said banana.
  • Catholic schools showed videos on abortion, but nothing on contraception. 

 

SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME SEX EDUCATION HAS CHANGED FOR THE LOVE OF VAGINAS AND PENIS’ EVERYWHERE! 

 

I know that there are now lessons that discuss and prioritise the importance of sex and consent. I am aware also that LGBTQ+ relationships are demonstrated and explored during sex education and within school. About time. But I don’t know if this is compulsory to the syllabus and reaching all of our students across the UK. 

I have come across voluntary organisations that visit schools and communities, with trained sexual educators, who are clued up on what 2019 students need to know about sex. I have also been in contact with some brilliant women who are currently doing there bit to make sex education matter and change the way we learn about it. And of course, there are female led charities focusing on educating young women on their vaginas

So bare with me! I’ll be back with (hopefully) really great news that the sex education system is changing, and information on how we can help ensure that future generations don’t have to put up with this sh*t! We need proper education in place that not only teaches us how we do it, but how we do it safely, sensitively, with consent, without taboos, and most importantly, with openness and honesty. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This information will not only protect our young people, but could actually save their lives! (Dramatic, but true.)

 

Within sex education comes the responsibility of teaching us about our sexual organs. Knowing where the clit is, is part of this. Knowing where the vulva is, is part of this. Knowing how to check our vaginas and penis’ for cancer, is part of this. Knowing it is not wrong to have sex with multiple partners, is a part of this. Knowing about each other’s genitals, is part of this. Knowing what is normal and what isn’t, is part of this.

And on that note, PART TWO COMING SOON! 

S x

 

“ANXIETY, is working against me. Whoooa, ANXIETY wants to bring me down.”

Firstly, if you sang the title of this post to the tune of John Mayer’s song, “Gravity”, then you get a gold star. If you didn’t (*sigh*), have a quick listen, come back, and read it again to see how clever I have been by replacing the word ‘gravity’ with ‘ANXIETY‘! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iGOWk-r614)

So. Anxiety. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh bloody ‘ell not more #MentalHealth, Soph! We’re already clued up, babes! It’s 2019. Everyone and their Mum’s are writing about the importance of mental health. Go back to writing about periods and stuff.” 

I will. You know I love endless chat about hormones and extra discharge-y days. But today I am going to talk to you about health anxiety. Specifically, my own health anxiety and how I deal with it/don’t deal with it at all. It’s something pretty personal. I find it more personal than talking about my vagina! But I wanted to put it out there because it exists!

“So what you’re a hypochondriac Sophie? GET OVER IT! You go to the doctors all the time and worry that you’re dying. Big deal.” I am a hypochondriac and actually, it is quite a big deal. Feeling like you, or someone you love is going to get ill, fall down and die, or just fall down and die instantly on the street, constantly, is pretty sh*t. 

“Hypochondriasis or hypochondria is a condition in which a person is excessively and unduly worried about having a serious illness. It has been claimed that this debilitating condition results from an inaccurate perception of the condition of body or mind despite the absence of an actual medical diagnosis.”

Seeing hypochondriasis written down as a condition and defining it in a serious, medical way, may seem ridiculous. It almost reads as a joke, I know. And I am usually the butt of a lot of hypochondriac jokes. They are usually genuinely funny and I am usually, genuinely, ridiculous.

“Ooh I just felt a sharp pain in my anus.. it’s cancer.” 

But behind the laughter, eye rolls and “Oh Soph, stop being so silly”, the feelings, paranoia, anxiety, wobbles and panic attacks are not a joke. Being a hypochondriac/having health anixety, has a lot of negative connotations and some people just laugh it off, but it ain’t funny.

The common misconception of someone like me having anxiety over health, is that I am “just an attention seeker”. This label is thrown around a lot to describe people with mental health battles. I can assure you we are not attention seeking. If I wanted your attention, I would dye my hair pink. Oh wait, I’ve done that. Ummmm, okay. I WOULD….. I WOULD GET A GREEN MOHAWK! There! 

I don’t want attention, I want reassurance and then I want an answer. But the tricky thing I’ve found with my anxiety is that I’ll be too scared to ask for the answer. I’ll think something is wrong with me, but don’t want to go to the doctor in case they confirm it. Or I’ll have moments of booking a few doctors appointments consecutively, and then cancelling them after realising I’d be wasting their time.

I also often get intrusive thoughts. For example, if I don’t shut the door in front of me within 5 seconds, someone I love will fall down and die that day. I will shut that door, in 5 seconds, if it is the last thing I do. It sounds completely mad, but I see images of a body on the ground, paramedics, the whole kit and caboodle. So I shut the door. I’ll also continually annoy my parents by texting them every hour to make sure nothing has happened to them. 

I’ve had therapy/mind-coaching to try and relieve myself of some of these thoughts, or at least learn how to rationalise and cope with them, and I am a lot better. I’ve said before that this blog has been a form of therapy to a degree. I am so clued up on vaginas, I rarely experience health anxiety in that area anymore, which is fab! But I’m not completely anxiety free else where. 

A couple of months back I thought I had a lump in my arm pit. Cue panic, worry and a lot of prodding around in the depths of my pits. (CUE PAINFUL, IRRITATED, PISSED OFF, PITS!) After putting it off for a while, I booked a doctor’s appointment.

The day of the appointment arrived. I pooed 3 times. My hands were shaky. I was hot and clammy, and I immediately started thinking of all the different ways this appointment was going to go. “Maybe I’ll just faint on the floor and then get rushed to hospital with an unknown brain disease and my lumpy pit will never be resolved!” you know, the norm.

I packed up my things at work and got ready to leave. My co-worker knew I was off to the doctor, so he called after me, 

“Good luck at the doctors….. hope it isn’t CANCER!” 

Wow. 

Embarrassingly, I actually teared up at this point. 

(It wasn’t cancer. He would have been sorry if it was.) No, the appointment was fine. My GP and I rabbited on about HPV, sex, oral, lumps, armpits, mental health, babies, and then I was out of there and eating curry at my Mum’s house. I zoned out a couple of time to stop an imminent panic attack, but it was all okay. 

However, I don’t think that these things will ever not be scary for me. I am constantly being pushed out of my comfort zone. Some days I have to force myself out of the house, because I’ve been anxious that I might faint on the tube, or in the shops, and that’ll be it. I’ll fall ill. Or just die. I have stayed in the house or cancelled plans to avoid feeling this way and to make sure nothing bad does happen. I feel really embarrassed typing that out, but I gotta’ be honest. When it’s bad, it’s bad. Like any other anxiety, it can be debilitating and it definitely puts a strain on my health, ironically!

It is something that often stops me from livin’ the vida loca. A lot of people say “Oh, you should spend less time worrying that you’re going to get ill and die, and more time living your life! Stop worrying! Death is inevitable! We’re all going to die!” Blah blah blah. If I could switch it off like a light, don’t you think I would have done that by now, hun? 

 

I’ve listed below some of the features of health anxiety, all of which I’ve ticked and completed (gold stars for me today). Some of these probably seem quite normal. Of course it is human to worry about your own health and the health of loved ones. But for some, like me, it can take over life and become obsessive, triggering panic attacks and general feelings of being unhappy. 

  • constantly worry about your health – nearly every day. I also constantly worry about my boyfriends health, my parents, my grandparents, my brothers etc.
  • frequently check your body for signs of illness, such as lumps, tingling or pain – I checked my neck vigorously for lumps every day for about 2 months. 
  • are always asking people for reassurance that you’re not ill – my poor, long, suffering boyfriend puts up with this just before we’re about to go to sleep.
  • worry that your doctor or medical tests may have missed something – yes. 
  • obsessively look at health information on the internet or in the media – all the time. Google. Forums. Charities. Organisations. Twitter. 
  • avoid anything to do with serious illness, such as medical TV programmes – I can watch 24 Hours in A&E now, but for a long time I avoided anything like this. I cry every time I watch it though.
  • act as if you were ill (for example, avoiding physical activities) – I once fainted after doing an ‘Insanity’ workout (haha lol) and didn’t workout for a good 6 months afterwards, because I assumed I had a heart condition. 

 

If I’ve just described you, hi! Me too. Up until last year I thought I was just overly sensitive,weak and pathetic. I’m not, and neither are you. You’re not alone. You’re not a joke. Your feelings are real, they are valid, they are scary but you are in control. 

Anxiety is ugly. It’s a part of me, but it isn’t me. It’s not Sophie being a bit of a tit. It’s anxiety rearing it’s big, ugly head and trying to mess with mine. Some days I don’t beat it. But one day I will.

For tips and advice on how to deal with health anxiety clink on these links. The NHS is slowly making progress with the way it helps patients manage their mental health and the booklet (second link) was my first stepping stone to dealing with my own. 

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/health-anxiety/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hypochondria/Documents/Health%20Anxiety%20A4%20%202010.pdf

 

To end, a lovely lady said this to me recently and I wanted to share it with you,

“Don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up. It’s an impossible fight! Sometimes fighting it is harder than the actual anxiety. It’s alright to sit in it if you don’t feel like you have the energy to tackle it at the minute.” 

 

Sending pussy positivity, and a whole lot of brain positivity to you. 

S x 

 

Things I Wish I’d Been Told About My Vagina (and other related things).

Life has been a bit more vagina friendly this year. I feel like I finally know what I need to know, but it’s taken me 25 years to get here. So let’s jump straight in there and find out what I wish I’d been taught, shown, whispered to, allowed, told, about this strange body part between my legs.

 

Things I Wish I’d Been Told About My Vagina.

1. UTI stands for Urinary Tract Infection. 

2. A UTI is not an STI.

3. A UTI is that feeling you get when you wee and it buuuurns to high heaven. It doesn’t mean your vagina is facing its own Armageddon.

4. Don’t wash your vagina with Radox bubble bath. She can clean herself. 

5. Sometimes your vagina will smell, and that’s okay. 

6. Don’t invest in buying products to try and make her smell nice. She is always going to smell like a vagina. 

7. So don’t spray deodorant down your pants, please. 

8. Discharge isn’t gross, it’s normal. Most people with a vagina experience discharge daily. 

9. And discharge in your pants is nothing to be embarrassed of. You don’t need to scrunch them up into a tiny ball and hide them at the bottom of the wash basket, so that your Mum doesn’t see. 

10. The contraceptive pill is not the only option to protect yourself.

11. You don’t have to shave off all of your pubic hair if you don’t want to. You don’t have to shave at all.

12. Sexual partners are not going to be perturbed or throw you out of bed because you have pubic hair!

13. Sleeping with multiple people is not a crime. It doesn’t make you a terrible person. So erase the word ‘slut’ from your vocabulary. 

14. Sleeping with two people does not make you a prude. Or frigid.

15. Ugh! Don’t listen to anyone that uses the word ‘frigid’. Everything that comes out of their mouth is most probably rubbish. 

16. Look at your vagina. Check to see how she’s doing. Give her a little feel every now and again. 

17. Masturbate, for the love of!

18. Female masturbation exists and it is just as important and necessary as male masturbation.

19. You won’t always orgasm during penetrative sex, and that’s okay. 

20. “These are the signs and symptoms of all gynaecological cancers (cervical, ovarian, womb. vaginal, vulva).”

21. HPV is the human papillomavirus. The infection can cause cervical cancer, and other cancers too.

22. “The jab you are about to receive is not protecting you against cervical cancer, it is protecting you against HPV.”

23. Men can contract HPV too. 

24. “Now I’m going to tell you ALL about HPV, because it’s important.”

25. Newsflash! YOU HAVE A VULVA. 

26. Yep, the vulva is different to the vagina. The vulva is what you usually refer to as your vagina. They are separate things! (Mind, blown)

27. “Here is what your reproductive organs look like. This is your cervix. This is your womb. These are your ovaries. This is your vaginal canal. That is your labia.” Etc, etc.

28. Never, ever use Google to look up your gynaecological symptoms. 

29. Stop using Google.

30. I SAID STOP! 

31. The overly anxious, intrusive thoughts you experience about the health of your ‘bits’ are not just ‘worries’, it’s anxiety. 

32. YOU HAVE TWO HOLES! 

33. Don’t put petroleum jelly anywhere near your vagina! 

34. Use lube, it’s great. 

35. Don’t moisturise your flaps. 

36. Pull out a front wedgie in public. Who cares!

37. Tampons and pads contain traces of chemicals. They are also bad for the environment. But you know, make up your own mind. It is your period. 

38. Some girls are not as privileged as you, they do not have access to sanitary products. 

39. Period poverty exists, in this country and world wide. 

40. You can donate sanitary products to give to others. 

41. Your vagina is not just for sex and the pleasure of someone else. 

42. Your vagina is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of. 

43. Your vagina is something to be proud of. 

44. Lacey, cheap knickers will ultimately give you a rash, sorry. Buy the bigger, cotton ones and just be comfortable.

45.  You are sexy. 

46. Your vagina is amazing. 

47. Your vagina can do sooo much cool stuff.

48. Vaginas are better than penises.

Hehe.

 

I now know these things at 25, but I would have liked to know them a little sooner than that. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; knowledge is power. That means that vagina knowledge is like, mega, life-saving, powerful x1000, with icing and a cherry on top, stuff!

 

Have you got any to add to the list? Tweet me or Instagram me, I want to hear them!

 > @GashGossip <

 

S xx

A Love Letter… to my menopausal Mum.

It seems this month is all about Mum’s and their miracle, wonderful bodies. This is a letter to my own beautiful Mum. Our crazy, flower loving, Rod Stewart obsessed Mumma and the only person in the world who gets emotional over ‘Cheaper by the Dozen 2’.

She also got bitten by a dog once, did you know?

This is a love letter to my menopausal Mum, although she is so, so much more than that. 

Enjoy. 

 

Dear Mumma,

We are entering your birthday month and this year it’s a big one! Apparently you should never disclose a woman’s age, but I know you’re not one for gender traditions. You are proud to be a nearly 60 year old woman, who let’s face it, looks bloody radiant all of the time. Even after falling in a bush or scaling the wall because you’ve locked yourself out of the house… again. You define the phrase ‘age is just a number’ every day. 

But let’s start at the beginning in 1993 when your first, favourite child was born… ME!

I came out with a triangular shaped head, which has thankfully rounded throughout the years and a very grumpy face. Thus the nickname ‘Baby Grumpling’ was born, which you still use to this day when I’m having one of my many meltdowns on how unfair life is. You have always kept me in check, never letting me wallow in self-pity and instead, pick me up off the floor, dust me off, hold my hand and pass me a glass of wine. You are a life guru, the one I come to for all my vagina advice and the first woman I ever loved.

In 1994 out come baby number two; a nearly 10lb bundle of blubber, whose elbow got inadvertently stuck on its way out. You gave me a little brother to love, dress up and read to in the bath. This brother started called me Fufu or Fufs (still does) which is pretty apt seeing as now I write a blog all about FUF!

4 years later, you sat us down at the kitchen table and told us we were going to have a new baby brother or sister in time for the millennium. I thought this was the worst idea ever. Actually, said baby has turned out to be the best, most normal and sweetest, out of us all. We love him. And we all love each other now, even if it took us a while to get here! Three births, three babies, three times you pushed humans out of your vagina. What a wonder woman! Although none of us look like you (we’ve all got Dad’s big honker), we got our love for the arts, our creativity, our craziness, and compassion, all from you

When I thought I had cervical cancer, I came straight to you. I explained every detail to you, every detail of my vagina and my sex life, even though you didn’t know I had a boyfriend at this point. You simply wrapped me up in a big hug and told me I was going to be okay. Then came all of the appointments. You came to every single one, never complained, never said you had somewhere else to be. You were there making sure I’d worn my comfiest pants. We cried, we laughed, we cried and laughed at the same time – a speciality of ours.

You came into my first colposcopy so that I wasn’t alone and looked at my cervix on a screen so that I didn’t have to. You propped me up on cushions after my surgery, made me peanut butter on toast and then showed me your interpretation of a ‘squat’ to make me laugh. I would not have got through that time without you, or Dad (a special shout out to Dad too. Dad, you’re the absolute tits and have to listen to me talk about my fanny all the time, I’m sorry. Thank you for always sending me vagina related news articles and liking every single Gash Gossip related post. I love you.) You’re both simply the best, better than all the rest.

Mumma, I most admire how much you have embraced your ‘wiser years’. You’ve entered them with grace, a couple more swear words and a never ending grin. Even when times are tough and things are falling apart, you keep it all together. You’ve had your own trips down Gynae Lane and kept your sense of humour and optimism throughout. Sleepless nights, sweaty nights, hot flushes, all the emotions, aches, pains, more sleepless nights, one ‘doughnut’ and a couple of quick escapes from the dinner table to cool down in the front garden. You’ve taken it all in your stride, even though I know you’ve felt like tearing your hair out at times.  

You are an amazing woman, mother, female figure, inspiration, wife, daughter, sister, business woman, gardener, baker, cook, hand-holder, gin & tonic maker, listener, emoji-user, agony aunt, advice giver and the only person who actually likes the ‘Cheerleader’ song. (I’m lying, I like it too. I’m just trying to be cool.

“Alexa, play Cheerleader! Oooh I think that I found myself a Cheerleader!”)

Thank you for helping me put my first tampon in, telling me that discharge was normal, talking to me about sex, washing my knickers, force feeding my friends broccoli, buying me pads, driving to school to give me pads, driving me to the hospital, hugging me after break ups, standing on the other side of the toilet door when it hurt to wee, telling me life can be ‘pants’ sometimes, dancing with me in the kitchen and all of the crying and laughing. 

I hope to be even half of the Mum you are one day. When I have children, they will be begging me to go to Granny & Grumps because you are and will be so loved.

I could not ask for better, I’ll love you forever. 

Baby Grumpling x

 

Contraception – 11 Years of Pill Poppin’

Contraception. Where do I even begin with this one? It’s a minefield, init? Lots of different options, for every kind of person, with a whole list of side-effects depending on the form, and the person! Cor. It gets me out of breath just typing it! 

I never remember learning about the different forms of contraception at school, other than that boys should wear condoms. I didn’t even have the pleasure of putting a condom on a banana like the rest of the population, which I really feel like I missed out on… *runs home to the fruit bowl*

When it came to losing my virginity, I had no idea what I was doing other than that I had to get the condom on the penis and fast! 

So let me rephrase all of that, I never learnt about female contraception

However, a few weeks after I started having sex, I turned to my Mum as she was mashing potatoes and whispered, “I need to go on the pill.” The words just fell out of my mouth, even I was surprised. 

“What??” my Mum replied over the sound of the oven. 

“I need to go on the pill!!” I said in a raised, high pitched voice.

Silence. 

Mum paused mashing the potatoes. “Ok. I’ll make you an appointment tomorrow.” 

Mum resumed mashing the potatoes. 

I only knew about ‘the pill’ because a handful of my friends had started having sex or had been prescribed one to help with their periods (not sure whether this actually did help and instead masked underlying issues, but we’ll save that chat for another time!) Anyway, the pill seemed like the obvious and most trendy option and to be honest, I didn’t know about any of the others. 

I don’t think the doctor even gave me a choice of which pill to go on. He told me it was called Microgynon, wrote me up a prescription and waved me off in to my new sexually active life to see how I got on with it. 

Or should I say, how I didn’t get on with it. Mum and Dad took me back to the doctors about 4 months later and said “What have you done to our darling daughter?! She’s a monster!” or words to that effect. Yes, Microgynon sent my hormones cray cray. I was shouting, slamming doors, breathing fire, trampling on skyscrapers and my forehead had turned into a pimple breeding ground that resembled pepperoni pizza. 

Again, at this next appointment no other forms of contraception were mentioned other than the pill. I had to choose between, Yasmine, Cilest, Marvelon, Loestrin, Mercilon, and Femodette. Cilest was the chosen one. Apparently it would help even out my mood swings and keep my teenage acne under control, making my face more of a marghertia than a pepperoni.

I guess ‘the pill’ seems like the easiest option when you’re younger, but it would have been good to know my other options too. Then again, each surgery practice is different. Some of you may have been offered the injection or implant at the tender age of 15, but I was not. 

Fast forward 11 years. Yep, 11 years of popping this tiny purple pill everyday at 7pm. (Those who know me will have heard the ringtone on my phone go off and I’m sure we would have all sung in unison, “PILL TIME!”) This year I have decided to come off it and have some ‘me time’. The last 11 years haven’t been filled with too many hormonal catastrophes, but some things started to not feel right. I knew it was time for my body to take a little holibobs (ew, ‘holibobs’).

The cervical ectropion on the entrance to my cervix was caused by the contraceptive pill and the fluctuations in hormone levels. This erosion was the cause of my consistent bleeding after sex and it had started to take it’s toll on my relationship with sex. “Oooh yeah that was great babe, really hot…. hang on let me just check my vagina, bed sheets, pillow, floor and your dick for blood. Bare with!” You know, it kind of kills the vibe. Now I don’t know if the science is correct, but I’m glad to report that since coming off of the pill 3 months ago, I’ve have had NO bleeding after sex (!!) That can’t be a coincidence, surely? 

I also wanted to conduct a little experiment to see if coming off of the pill would help me take back control of my mental health. Over the past 3 years I have found it difficult to know whether I don’t feel well, or if it is my hormones playing silly buggers. Extra amounts of oestrogen pumping through my blood stream was sure to amount to more tears and (I don’t bounce this word around lightly), depression.

The only way I was going to find out was to stop pill poppin’! 

So, just like that, I turned off the 7pm alarm, bought a multi-pack of condoms (oi oi) and prepared the hot water bottles for bad period pain… and so far, so good! Minus the period pain, which is flippin’ horrible, but my mood has definitely improved. I feel that I can distinguish more clearly when I feel normal or am PMS-ing, and when I don’t feel well and need to look after my brain. 

I’ve also noticed I feel lighter, more patient, my digestion and bowel movements are better, I’m not as bloated and my blood pressure is lower. I am now enjoying tracking my periods and “fertile days” through an app called Clue. I still use protection, I don’t 100% trust an app to act as effective contraception – that’s a bit too Black Mirror-y for me! But it has been great for predicting my period, PMS symptoms and just keeping note of what is going on in my body. And b.t.w, 28th of June I’ll be PMS-ing, the clouds on the app are very grey, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. (If you know, you know.) 

The pressure and responsibility often falls on women to take control of permanent contraception, whether they have a regular partner or not. Which is funny because I was told to practise contraception for a penis (with fruit), but not what my sustainable options were. Therefore I was pretty unprepared for the various effects it would have on my body and mind. Whether it’s gaining weight, going up a cup size, skin break outs, feeling incredibly sad, low libido, continuous bleeding – whatever it is, it ain’t nice. And it is constant. I’ve experienced all of these at some point over the last 11 years, as I’m sure many of you reading this have. 

I am by no means ruling out alternative contraception forever but I want an option that is going to keep my boobs at the size, my skin as flawless as a babies bum and not make me feel so crap.

“In the past 50 years, there have been few changes in male contraception compared with the range of options available to women. Although there’s ongoing research into a male contraceptive pill, there isn’t one available yet.” – NHS 

So, I’ll keep waiting.

 

This post does not mean you should come off of your contraception, especially if it works well for you. I believe contraception is a human right and it is a woman’s right to control their fertility however they wish. 

S x