Thursday, 14 June 2018

Bits of Bute - Part 2

This weekend sees the very first Pride event on Isle of Bute. But do you know the history of Pride and why it exists?
I will admit that until recently I was not aware of the full story behind why Pride exists. I knew of Stonewall the organisation that campaigns for equality for all LGBT people but not much else.

Being a straight female I have always been a LGBT ally, that is someone who believes in equality for all; whether they be straight, gay, male, female, black, white, disabled or able bodied etc. We all live on this one planet and I have always believed that everyone should be treated with respect.

In 1950's America, things were not good for gay people, in fact they weren't good for gay people anywhere to be honest. If you were gay then your very existence was criminalised. You had very few rights as a gay person; you could be refused service in bars and restaurants, you could be sacked from your job if your employer found out you were gay.

On June 26th 1969  there was a police raid at The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York City. Most raids were simply ones that shut bars down for a few days and they then re-opened until being raided again a few weeks later, But things got out of hand this night and it turned into a riot. People inside the bar were treated so badly by the police that many decided that the time was right to make a stand for LGBT rights.

Pride events take place around the world, usually in June every year to mark the events of that night and each year more cities, towns (and even small islands ) host their own Pride events.

This year, thanks to the guys at Scottish Honky Tonk Bute is holding its first ever Pride event and I am so looking forward to it. It has been a long time coming and I have no doubt there are people here who are not as enthusiastic about it as I am.

You may ask why we need Pride, after all, the events of 1969 are a long way off now and we live in different times. Well yes and no. It's true that many more people are more tolerant of LGBT people but that doesn't necessarily mean they accept they are entitled to equal rights just the same as straight people. LGBT people around the world still face incredible barriers in many areas, from healthcare, employment, marriage etc so there is still a long way to go to reach true equality.

You only have to look back at the events of June 12th 2016 at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida to see that Pride still needs to happen.

Pride events are a time to celebrate what has been achieved but also to campaign for what still needs to be achieved for true equality across the board and around the world.

As a LGBT ally, with friends and aquaintences of all shades of the rainbow, I am fully supportive of the fight for equality and will be there to see the Pride parade on Saturday in Rothesay with my rainbow badge on and my handmade rainbow earrings.

Huge admiration to the guys at the Scottish Honky Tonk for organising it and its good to see some of the local businesses getting onboard and putting out the rainbow flags.

        The West End Chippy
                                                                                                                                Our local Oxfam

There will hopefully be lots of people coming to Bute this weekend so fingers crossed that the weather is nice. We've had wall to wall sunshine for over 3 weeks then yesterday Storm Hector arrived. Lets hope he leaves before the parade on Saturday.

Rumour has it that even the BBC will be covering the event!!


So, hopefully I will have some pics to show you next time. if you get the chance to go to a Pride event then please do.
Show your support and spread the love.

Have fun.

For more details about the history and background to Pride and the Stonewall riots check out

Friday, 18 May 2018

#GetLippy about #wombcancer

I know now that there are 5 gynaecological cancers but back at the end of 2009 I had only ever heard of 2 – ovarian and cervical. So being diagnosed with a cancer I had never heard of came as a bit of a shock to say the least. When I was told I had endometrial carcinoma I actually had to ask my gynaecologist where exactly the cancer was!! I then decided to call it womb cancer because it was much less of a mouthful!!

I am now a bit more savvy when it comes to gynae cancers and now know that there are 5 of them. Just in case you don't know all 5 they are womb, ovarian, cervical, vulval and vaginal - listed in order of numbers diagnosed.

After I finished my treatment in July 2010 I started doing some research and began to realise that even though womb cancer was the most common of the 5 gynae cancers there was very little awareness about it and even less research. There was also no dedicated womb cancer support groups out there so in 2011, I started Womb Cancer Support UK, which is an online based not for profit organisation.

It soon became apparent that many of the women who came to us for support had never heard of this cancer either before being diagnosed with it so I was determined to make sure that awareness was just as important as supporting those women who had already been diagnosed.

Over the past 7 years, not only have we supported many women who have been diagnosed but we have worked hard to raise awareness of womb cancer. Sadly there is this misconception that it is a cancer than only affects older women, mainly post-menopausal ones but we know from the women that come to us that it can affect women of all ages.

We know of at least 2 young women who were diagnosed before the age of 20; we also know of several young women in their 30’s who have died as a result of womb cancer;  I myself was told at 46 that I was on the young side to get womb cancer.

We need to make sure that all women (and GP’s) understand that a woman is #NeverTooYoung to get womb cancer. It can and does affect women of all ages.

Throughout the  month of May  The Eve Appeal is running their #GetLippy campaign to raise awareness of all 5 gynae cancers – the 3rd week of the month they are focussing on womb cancer so please get behind the campaign and help #GiveWombCancerAVoice.

We need all women to be aware of womb cancer and know that it could affect them. If you are experiencing any sudden heavy bleeding or bleeding between your normal periods or get any post-menopausal bleeding then please don’t ignore it like I did. Go see your GP and get checked out. It may not be womb cancer but if it is then the sooner it’s caught the better the outcome.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed, either recently or in the past and want some support then you can check out our website or find us on Facebook.



Thursday, 15 March 2018

Bits of Bute - Part 1

This is the first in an occasional series of blog posts about things local to Isle of Bute, which is where I live. It’s a small island off the west coast of Scotland that I’ve called home for the past 15 years.

The Isle of Bute is often been seen as a nice quiet place to either live or come and visit. With lovely scenery and plenty of nice beaches, it is a relatively pleasant place to live. The population is around 6,500 and although a lot are older residents there are still a lot of younger people who live here. Outdoor activities range from bowls and shinty to football and bridge. Indoor activities include art clubs, highland dancing, a choir and a community brass band.

Recently a little piece of Bute, namely down at Ardbeg Point, has been rocking to a slightly more upbeat tune with the arrival of new owners at what was the Ardbeg Lodge, now known as The Scottish Honky Tonk.

The owners, Brody and Rima Jamieson, took over a couple of years ago and have turned this little part of Bute into a great little house of music, fun and food. As well as some great live music the SHT has a diner, called the R&B Rockabilly Diner, which serves good old US style food as well as all the usual food for the less adventurous.

They have regular live music events and this year they are really pulling out all the stops. At the end of this month there is a Pick-upTruck Rally and then in June they are organising Bute’s first ever Gay Pride event. Hopefully it will become a fixture for years to come, as will no doubt many of the other events that Brody & Rima have been busy organising.

It is great to see something different here on the island and whilst some of the events may not be to everyone’s taste, you can’t deny that they are providing a service that many do want and enjoy.

Whilst I’ve not been down to check out the place myself yet, (due to health issues) I have heard a lot of good things about what is going on down there so will make an effort to get there one day.

You can find out more by checking out the Facebook pages and also their website and if you ever come over to Bute then you have to take a drive out of Rothesay and down to Ardbeg and check out the Scottish Honky Tonk where you will no doubt be given a huge welcome, some great grub, some wicked moonshine and some great service!! And you may even find a visiting drag queen or two on the bill.
Check out the Welcome to Bute and What's on Bute FB pages for more details of all things related to Bute and for details of local events.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Information Super Highway.

Remember in the good old days when the only way to find out what was happening in the world was to sit down in front of the television and watch the evening news or sit at the breakfast table and read the daily paper?

These days, you are more likely to catch your dose of news updates whilst scrolling through Facebook or on Twitter. Social media seems to be where most of us find our news these days. Main stream media (MSM) in its traditional sense is struggling. Sales of newspapers are down and many papers now have online versions although with some of them you still have to pay to access their websites.

Of course, there is now the issue of so called "fake news" but I guess in a way we've always had that because even the MSM have always only printed what they wanted you to read and not always given the full story.
The easy access to news 24 hours a day should mean that we are all more informed about what is happening around the world but sadly it would seem that's not always the case.

Many people lead such seemingly busy lives - always on the go, rushing around etc. that sometimes things pass them by. Sure news of big events still reach them, like election results or who won Bake Off or Strictly Come Dancing but the things that should be important seem to pass them by.
Many people don't see what happens in other parts of the world as relevant to their lives but in the 21st century everything is interlinked - global trade and politics affects every part of our daily lives.

There are so many people around the world trying to make a difference and it's sad that for the most part no-one knows what they are doing.

Women working in rural parts of India and Africa to educate other women and young girls on menstruation and gynaecological issues and helping to alleviate period poverty; Mothers in parts of South America fighting hard to keep their children out of armed gangs; things like this are happening across the world yet very few people know anything about them.

I spend a lot of time online due to my work with Womb Cancer Support UK, searching for information and articles related to this issue to help raise awareness and also supporting those women who have been diagnosed. I come across a lot of other interesting stuff along the way and share as much as I can because I think it's important to do so.

Although the internet has made the world a much smaller place - we can connect with someone on the other side of the world instantly via messenger or Facebook and Twitter - it has also made us more distant from the things that are happening around us.
We scroll through our newsfeeds and yet do we actually read any of the stuff there? Most people are more likely to comment on a post from a friend talking about what they had for dinner than show any interest in a news article about some atrocity in a foreign country or the rape and murder of a young girl in rural India.

It seems the compassion and empathy has gone out of society and many people are so wrapped up in their own world that they don't have the time to care about anything or anyone else, and that is really sad.

If you have taken the time to read this, I thank you and I hope you will also take the time to read more posts and articles on social media that are of real importance. The lives of everyone on this planet are interconnected even if only in minute ways - but we all matter.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The art of writing a letter.

It would seem in these days of technology where everything is instant - emails, instagram and texts, that the simple pleasure of writing a letter has gone out of fashion.
I used to love getting letters from my Mom every week or so an so miss them not popping through the letter box anymore since she died at the end of 2013. Occasionally I will come across one of the notecards that she used to send me tucked away in a drawer an it makes me cry when I re-read them, knowing that I'll never get another on.

Think of all the love letters that have been exchange by couples over the years; some kept for decades as a reminder of lost love or of happier times. The letters of condolences after a bereavement. The letters tucked inside a Christmas card with an update of the previous years family activities etc. an who can forget all those letters written to Santa.

We often get letters from friends and family when we are ill wishing us a speedy recovery and these sometimes arrive if we are in hospital for some length of time an help keep us in touch with the outside world.

Being diagnosed with cancer can be a difficult time and also a lonely time as our everyday lives are suspended as we go through cancer but those around us, family, friends and work colleagues, move on without us.

I recently came across a lovely website which encourages people to write a letter to a cancer patient. It's as simple as that. For the cost of a stamp, you could make a real difference to the life of a cancer patient.

Please check out From me to You and if you don't feel like writing a letter then they are always looking for donations of lovely notecards that they can use.

Make someone smile today and write a letter.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Change of plan!!!

OK, so I wrote a blog post on Sunday about how I was going to be taking a step back from the vast amount of awareness raising that I try and do for womb cancer. You may have read it, according to the stats around 400 people have!!!

Anyway, Sunday was a bad day for me. It was 8 years since I went into hospital for my hysterectomy - 4 days early due to being severely anaemic and needing 6 blood transfusions before the op could take place.
Also the depression was creeping back in so I wasn't really in a good place. As I said in the previous post, I had been mulling over taking a step back for some time but had never actually bitten the bullet and done it.
However the past 48 hours have changed all that.

I received so many comments via social media about my decision and some of them made me realise that I couldn't leave what I had started with the job only half done. One thing I am not is a quitter.

So, I've decided that I'm not going anywhere. The womb cancer awareness will continue. I am not about to walk away from something that I have devoted the past 7 years of my life to.
What I will be doing however, is taking a good long look at how I do what I do and structure my campaigning activities in order to achieve the best outcome.

One thing that has come out of the past couple of days is that I care too much when others don't.
WCSUK has never been about me. I don't like the attention it brings me and I don't like the fact that I have to keep talking about my cancer experience in order to try and raise awareness.
I do it though, because I think its important that we as women talk more openly about our gynaecological health issues, that includes things like periods, hysterectomies, menopause and cancer because there are so many taboos around these subjects and that is not good for anyone.

It's often said that these things are "women's issues" - I believe they are everyone's issues - men and women. Men have Mothers, Wives, Sisters and Daughters. Surely they care about them and want the best for them so we all need to be talking a lot more about these issues and I for one do not intend to stop talking about them.

Using the platform of WCSUK as well as my personal social media I will talk about the issue of womb cancer awareness, and other gynaecological issues as well as women's issues in general for as long as I have breath left in me.

We all, women and men, have to talk more openly  about these issues because they affect all of us.
I hope I can count on you to join me and help raise awareness, smash taboos and stigma and generally make the world a better place for all of us.
Heck, if we're going to aim for anything lets aim high.

Kaz.  xx

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Looking back - because sometimes it's too hard to look forward.

Eight years ago today I went into hospital to have a hysterectomy. The operation was scheduled for 25th January but at my pre-op appointment I was found to be severely anaemic so had to go in 4 days early so I could have some blood transfusions, ended having 6 in all, plus 1 during the operation itself.
I was having the operation due to womb cancer, although I had initially been diagnosed with several large fibroids & had turned down the hysterectomy that was the preferred treatment option of my gynaecologist. Then the cancer was discovered and it seemed like I had no option so into hospital I went to have all my reproductive organs taken out.
Plunged into immediate menopause at the age of 46 I thought I'd be able to manage it all until I heard a few weeks later that, despite being told by both my gynaecologist and surgeon that I would probably not need further treatment, I discovered that I did indeed need chemotherapy AND external radiotherapy.

The surgery was supposed to give me back my life, after living with extremely heavy bleeding that had controlled my life for around 35 years. What it actually did was become the start of something that changed my life forever.

The long term side effects of the treatment for what is the most common gynaecological cancer and the 4th most common cancer to affect women has left me with several chronic health conditions that rule my life far more than the heavy bleeding ever did and that's saying something.

Unable to do even the most mundane of things for the past few years, even showering or getting dressed in the morning requires a huge amount of effort, I have spent the last 7 years running a national online support and awareness organisation called Womb Cancer Support UK. When I went looking for specific womb cancer support when I was first diagnosed there wasn't any. I wanted to talk to other women who were going through the same as I was and Facebook seemed like the ideal place to do it so I set up a FB page and the rest is history. The organisation has grown to almost 3,000 likers and the website has around 1,000 hits a week.

In the absence of a national womb cancer awareness campaign we do what we can to spread the word and raise as much awareness as we can. It's shocking to think that over 9,300 women were diagnosed with this cancer in 2014 (CRUK) yet many like myself had never heard of it. It is certainly the poor relation of cervical and ovarian cancer which many women have heard of; although they may not know all the signs and symptoms they will most likely be aware of these cancers.

We are very much a grassroots organisation and rely on the women who have been diagnosed and come to us for support to help us get the word out. They have helped us distribute over 11,000 of our womb cancer awareness leaflets up and down the country but that still not enough to make sure that all women know about womb cancer.

For the past 7 years I have devoted my life to WCSUK and at times it has been tough going but I have always continued with what I do because it's a cause I believe in.
But, there comes a time when things have to change. My health is not getting any better and the effort I put into what I do doesn't seem to be achieving much, or at least not achieving what I want it too.
I feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall at times and the time has come for me to take a step back from all of this, for the state of my mental health if nothing else.

Obviously I can't just walk away from what I do but I shall be taking steps to pull back from the full on 7 days a week I put into running WCSUK and all the social media work and effort I put into trying to raise awareness. However, the support side of things will continue and the private support group we have on FB will continue for as long as there are women out there who want or need support from other women who know, an understand what they are going through. That side of things will always be there.
I had intended to do it quietly and just slip away un-noticed but I feel I owe it to the people who support WCSUK to explain what will happen over the coming months. I have no timescale as such, other than I know I don't want to be doing this for the rest of my life.
As for the future? Well, I can't turn the clock back to a time before cancer but equally I can't see a future where the effects of that cancer diagnosis doesn't play a significant part in my day to day life.
Que sera, sera.