Friday, 19 October 2012

Cancer - The Effects

     Cancer.  The big C.  When you hear the word you immediately think of the worst.  You break down.  Your whole world is completely destroyed.  You think of what’s going to happen, you think of the future and the worst of it.  You immediately think of death.  You can’t help it.  I have my own experience with cancer.  I lost my Granddad to it when I was seven and I lost my great Nan when I was eight.  But I was most affected by the disease when I was told in October 2010 that my Grandma had throat cancer.  Everything from then on was just a blur.  She went through chemotherapy but it had already started to spread.  My auntie had to move her wedding forward by four months to make sure my Grandma was there. 
     When my Granddad and great Nan died, I was so young I only have a few memories of them and I’m lucky enough not to remember them being ill.  But I will remember my Grandma suffering from this disease.  She was given three to five months to live; she fought that and lived for a whole year after she was diagnosed.  We all knew she wouldn’t beat the cancer, it wasn’t going anywhere.  The tumour in her throat had been reduced by the chemo, but as soon as the therapy had stopped it got bigger again.  Meaning she could no longer eat solid food and everything had to be blended, which wasn’t pleasant at all. 
     In October 2011 her legs had swelled up making her uncomfortable and often causing her pain, this also meant she could no longer get upstairs.  Because of this our local hospital gave her one of their beds to put in her living room.  The first night she went to use it, her hip broke.  Luckily her sister was staying with her at the time and got her to the hospital.  From then on she spent just over a month in hospital.  She had one wish though and that was to not die in hospital or a hospice.  I prayed that we could uphold that wish, but I was slowly losing hope.  She spent two weeks in hospital and a further three weeks in a recovering unit next to the hospital. 
     Luckily she was able to come out, she spent the next week at home constantly with someone, either one of her sisters or one of her children.  She was at home for a week before she died.  She died at home, exactly where she wanted to be and for that I am so grateful.  Seeing her so ill and then seeing her slip away, it changed me.  Seeing death changes you as a person.  Something inside of you changes and you’re never the same again.  I don’t really know how to explain what death feels like, what it feels like seeing someone dying or what it feels like to lose someone. 
     All I can say is, it feels like your heart is literally breaking.  Like something is being ripped out from inside you and you’re not the same person again.  Even now, almost a year on, I miss her terribly.  There is not a day that goes by when I don’t think about her.  Ever since my Grandma has died, I have done all I can to raise money.  I ran the Race For Life, raising just over £200 for the charity.  I also donate to Macmillan as they are an amazing group who do brilliant things for people with cancer. 
     Cancer affects one in three people, meaning almost everyone will come across this awful disease in their life.  Death is a definite thing, no one escapes it.  But cancer is not the way to go.  I have seen how it can change someone, it takes away the person you used to know.  They become so different and their body is just a shell.  But with everyone’s help we can work towards finding a cure.  Please donate whatever you can to Stand Up 2 Cancer.  Thank you.               

Thursday, 18 October 2012

River Seine - Paris

I took this picture whilst I was in Paris in 2008. This photo was taken at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Loss

Have you ever had someone in your life that you used to know, but you lost them.  And so many years have passed that you start to forget about them.  You try so hard to remember them, you try desperately to grab hold of a memory, any memory of them, but you can’t.  All the memories you had of them, what they looked like, what their voice sounded like, they all slowly slip away, until you’ve forgotten.  You know they were there, you know they existed, but you don’t know anything about them. 

There used to be a time when you’d talk to them, listen to them, see them smile and hear their laugh, but now you don’t and you can’t remember what it used to be like.  You get to a point where everyone around you knows them, remembers what they did and what they sounded like, and it’s like you’re the only one who doesn’t.  Even though you knew them, you met them; you don’t really know them, not like everyone else does.  You start to make up things in your mind, you start to make up little memories, and you think about them and think about them, until you truly believed they happened. 
That what you made up in your mind actually happened and is real.  You look at pictures and blurry images of the past come back, but it’s not real and they’re not there.  Years will pass and eventually most of the people who you lose in your life one way or another, you will forget about.  You’ll look at pictures and you’ll think about them, but you won’t remember what they sounded like, what you did together, and you won’t discover your memories. 
But that’s what happens when you lose someone.  You’ll have the pictures and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to keep a few memories, but you won’t remember everything.  But then you meet someone new, or someone different will come into your life and you just have to make some new memories.   

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Abortion - The Time Limit Debate

In the space of one week the Minister for Women, Marie Miller and the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, have both announced they back the reduction of the abortion limit. Maria Miller has said she wished the limit to be reduced from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, whereas Jeremy Hunt has said he wishes for a further reduction, all the way to 12 weeks. Jeremy Hunt has said he supports a 12 week limit as a result of “studying the evidence”, however he hasn’t cited any evidence for his decision.

Experts have even disparaged Maria Miller’s decision to lower the time limit, with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) announcing that there is in fact no medical evidence to suggest such a cut would be a good idea. They have also criticised Jeremy Hunt’s suggestion of 12 weeks. Their spokesperson Kate Guthrie spoke to The Times and has said:

“The politicisation of women’s health is absolutely shocking. Politicians talk about putting patients at the centre, which is quite right.
How is the woman at the centre of her healthcare with something like this?
If everybody had to have abortions by 12 weeks, my worry would be that women would be rushed into making decisions: ‘I have to have an abortion now or I can’t have one.’
That’s an absolute shocker. You will absolutely create mental health problems if you start dragooning women into making decisions before they have to.”

Of course abortion is a sensitive issue for most people, but importantly it is an issue which should concern the women who are experiencing an unintended pregnancy. We women deserve the right to have autonomy over our own bodies, and we are entitled to make the decision to end or continue a pregnancy if that is what we want; it should not concern anyone else.

Abortions happen for many different reasons. A teenager, who is na├»ve and knows nothing about contraception, ends up getting herself into an awful situation. A woman who is raped and is left behind with a daily reminder. A woman who is in an abusive relationship and gets pregnant by her boyfriend/husband. Should these women be made to carry on with this unwanted pregnancy?  

If the abortion time limit is reduced, this does not mean fewer abortions will be carried out. It will only mean that women who rely on the NHS will be forced to make a difficult decision with very little time to make it. It is estimated that 47,000 women around the world die each year from illegal, unsafe abortions. Is this that we want for women in the UK?

These unwanted pregnancy rates need to be targeted by the government, but not by reducing the time limit. People need better access to contraception, even if teachers have to hand it out at schools. I have four nieces and a nephew; I would prefer them to be given contraception at school than for them to end up being a parent. Also improving pre-natal testing for genetic abnormalities would highlight any issues with a pregnancy well before the 24 week mark.

If these two ministers were interested in reducing unwanted pregnancies, they would begin by looking at access to contraceptives and drastically improving sex education. And I don’t mean explaining the facts of life, but actually talking to teenagers about relationships, contraception and how bloody hard it is to take care of a child. Teenagers are going to have sex, giving them contraception won’t encourage them, they’re going to do it anyway, but it will keep them safe. 

Maria Miller is Minister for Women and describes herself as “a very modern feminist” it would be great if she was on our side and actually trusted women to make the right decisions about our own bodies and futures. Jeremy Hunt also needs to understand that by lowering the abortion limit will not mean fewer abortions, it just means fewer documented abortions will be taking place and more women will be putting their lives at risk in order to end a pregnancy that they either cannot or will not continue with for all kinds of reasons. Abortions that take place after the 20 week mark are very rare and only account for less than 2% of the 200,000 abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2011.  

The tory government has made many cuts to the NHS since being in power. By reducing the limit they ultimately want to protect these babies lives, but they’re cutting the funds that the NHS is being given and they’re getting rid of more and more midwives. If they want to save babies lives, where are they going to be born and who is going to deliver them?   

The government needs to tackle this sensitive issue, but not by punishing women who have an unexpected or non-viable pregnancy.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Email to my local MP on the abortion limit.

My local MP has recently been made Women's Equality minister, she has also recently expressed her views on wanting to lower the abortion limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, so I wrote her an email expressing my views on the subject.

Dear Maria Miller,
 
I have recently read in the news that you believe the abortion limit
should be lowered from 24 weeks to 20 weeks.
 
First of all I cannot believe you think this is the right thing to do.
 
For one the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG)
have said there is no medical evidence to justify such a cut.
 
Women deserve the right to have autonomy over their own bodies, we are
entitled to make the decision to end or continue a pregnancy if that is
what we want to do.
 
The decision to have an abortion is a difficult one, and is influenced
by many factors, not least by the existing time limits.
 
If you have your way, women will be rushed into making decisions on
whether to have an abortion.
 
It is estimated that 47,000 women around the world die each year from
illegal, unsafe abortion. Is this what we want for women in the UK?
 
Unwanted pregnancy rates need to be targeted by the government, but not
by reducing the abortion time limit.
 
Improving access to contraception would help deal with the issue.
 
The Tory government has made many cuts to the NHS since being in
government.
 
You want to protect the life of an unborn child, but you're getting rid
of the wards for it to be born in and you're laying off the midwives
that will deliver that child.
 
Where is the sense in that.
 
So you’re Minister for Women, please be on our side; you describe
yourself as “a very modern feminist” so trust women to make the right
decisions about our own bodies and futures.


If anyone has any views or opinions on the matter and would like to add them, please feel free to leave a comment here or on my twitter. Thanks for reading.