A Missed Opportunity

Our guest blogger, Elizabeth, has a tale to tell which we all should heed about how one wrong decision can totally transform your life and work prospects. Some might find this too distressing but we believe it an important message to pass on.

This is the story of what might have been the biggest missed opportunity of my 62-year old life. Ironically, it would only have taken a few minutes, didn’t require any qualifications and wouldn’t have cost me any money.

Life was pretty good in 2007. I was 50, had a reasonably well paid job, happy relationship, a mortgage free home and no real cause to worry about my health. So, in 2016, when I developed a yellow vaginal discharge I wasn’t especially concerned. However 3 months later the ‘infection’ hadn’t cleared up and the GP referred me for a.  Whilst waiting for my referral I had a vaginal bleed just like a period, not right given I was post-menopausal, and that’s when the panic set in.

The next I know biopsies are being taken and I received the diagnosis no one wants. “Squamous cell cancer of the cervix”. I had a radical hysterectomy, my pelvic lymph nodes were removed and 6 sessions of chemotherapy, 27 sessions of radiotherapy.   18 months later and cancer-wise, so far so good.  But the long-term side effects have not been so good.

The surgery caused a lot of nerve damage and I, very unusually it seems, now suffer from urinary retention. I have to constantly self-catheterise and the lymphoedema in one of my legs and lower abdomen means I have to wear compression tights/stockings which fit so snugly I have to use garden gloves to get them on and off.

Because of these side-effects I had to give up my job as they made it hard to function well in a demanding fast paced role. If I was younger, I would also have to cope with a premature menopause and infertility.

Perhaps the saddest part of the tale is that my cancer might have been prevented, had I kept up to date with my screening tests. So, if you haven’t guessed already, my big missed opportunity was not taking up my invitations for cervical screening.

I chose to start this story from the year 2007 as this was when, age 50, that I stopped going for screening. I gave myself reasons/excuses for not going such as: ‘it might be painful’, ‘it’s not going to happen to me’, I’m low risk’ etc. WRONG! With glorious hindsight, a minute or so of unpleasantness really is a very small price to pay for something that could prevent a cancer.

I’m not alone: 1 in 4 women, between 25 and 64 don’t get screened despite receiving reminders. Please ladies, don’t ignore or overthink it, just make the appointment and go.  Or, if you feel you really can’t face the test, how about making an appointment with your GP to discuss your concerns – you can always ask to see a female doctor.

I am now passionate about raising awareness of the importance of cervical screening and the wonderful work of Jo’s Trust. Some women really do need an extra bit of support to go for their tests, I know I did.  Mutual support is effective and I encourage women, and sometimes men, to check if their partners, friends, sisters, daughters, nieces, mother etc. are getting tested.  That simple caring thing could prevent a lot of suffering, save a career  or even save a life.

Community Talks

WayfinderWoman is available for community talks in East Sussex, all year round, WI groups, Soroptomists, Lunch clubs etc. We offer talks about WayfinderWoman, the services we offer, as well as Heritage talks around our Women of Eastbourne exhibition, which was all about influential women in Eastbourne’s past.

If you would like to book a talk from us, or want more information please contact us on info@wayfinderwoman.com or call us on 01323 886171.

Here are a couple of photographs from Laura’s last community talk with the Eastbourne Soroptomists on the 26th November.

Strictly Charleston – News and Pictures

A Wonderful time was had at our Strictly Charleston fund raising event. The guests enjoyed good food and music, and had a good ole giggle learning the Charleston Dances, thanks to Yvonne Wright’s School of Dance.

Here are some of the happy Flappers on the night, if you were there and you have some photos that you wouldn’t mind sharing with us, please can you contact us, we would love some more!

The Red Box Project

Quietly ensuring that no young woman misses her education because she has her period

Problem: In the UK, some young women in our schools are finding it difficult to access sanitary products

Result: Tearful panics in the loo. Wadded up toilet roll. Anxious embarrassment. Missed lessons. Missed education.

Solution: Women from the community sponsor and stock a red box filled with sanitary products and spare pants. The red box will support disadvantaged young women throughout their entire period.

The box will be kept at school with the nurse, in reception or with an appropriate member of staff. Plain paper bags are included for discretion. Of course, our schools are already on the case and stock a limited supply of sanitary towels to cover emergencies but what makes this project special is that we aim to ensure enough supplies to get her through her entire period.

 

Want to take part or start your own Red Box Community?

This is an informal group of female friends, colleagues or neighbours who sponsor a red box in a nearby school. Each member agrees to donate one pack of sanitary towels every month plus some pants twice a year. Backed up by some light fund-raising, this is a simple, affordable way for the community to work together to solve a straight forward problem.

 

Would you like to help in other ways?

  • Donate to our fundraising page, the price of one coffee would support one young woman through her period.
  • Donate in kind, add a pack or two of normal flow with wings sanitary towels to your grocery shop or run a collection for us.
  • Donate via our Amazon wishlist.
  • Fundraise!

 

This is a simple scheme made with love for the young women in our community.

Why? We believe that a young woman’s education shapes her future and her dignity is our responsibility.

 

For more information please contact us:

theredboxprojecteastbourne@gmail.com

facebook.com/redboxeastbourne

 

What is The Red Box Project?

 

Woman To Woman

Dare to Succeed!    Be the Change!    Be the Influencer!

Are you held back by your circumstances?

Has your self-esteem taken a battering?

Do you want to shake things up?

 

We can help you do just that with our Woman to Woman project.

 

Part 1 – FREE WORKSHOPS

Over four sessions we will help you grow in confidence, develop leadership skills so you can speak out on what is important to you. See the Events page for details.

Part 2 – ACTION DAY

With our full support you will organise a free event in your local community to help other women express their views about what needs to change and how.

Women working together to bring about change #W2W

Inspiration: where do YOU get it from?

Picture of woman on the beachOur guest blogger is Katie Day from RDPI.  Katy has run a number of businesses in her career and is particularly keen to help women develop as leaders in their organisations.  Katie has her own way of being inspired and is sharing that with us.

 As women, we have to be all things to all people, all of the time!  Exhausting in the extreme.  So, as we inspire others around us to be the best they can be, who is inspiring us?  Are we so bogged down with ‘life’ that we sometimes forget to stop and listen to our subconscious mind?  We have all the answers we need, we simply don’t sit still long enough to hear!  Here’s what I do when I need a little inspiration for my business and / or my life.

I pretend to be six years old!  I have a ‘play box’ at my office that is filled with all sorts of random items – a heart shaped small cushion, cufflinks, a woolly hat, a leaf, dried flowers, coloured pens and crayons, anything that catches my eye as I’m out and about walking or in novelty shops.  When I’m stuck and need inspiration I close my eyes and rummage around in the box and pull something out.  I then look at the item and allow my conscious brain to be still and quiet so that my subconscious brain can be creative and bubble up with an idea or thought.

Daydreaming is essential, for our emotional and creative health.  Einstein credited daydreaming for all his genius, as adults we should allow ourselves legitimate daydreaming time every day.  That could be sitting at our desks and just looking out of the window or going for a walk.

Living by the sea I try and walk every day looking at the waves, whatever the weather.  The sea is especially brilliant when I feel stuck for ideas or inspiration.  I just stand by the water’s edge and when the waves come in I imagine my ‘stuck-ness’ being picked up by the water and washed out to sea and taken away from me.  When I feel that enough has been washed away, I then look at the waves coming in and imagine new ideas and creative thoughts being held in the water and I visualise those ideas washing over me as the waves break on the shore.  If you don’t live by water, you could do this by simply walking in nature – in a park in a busy city will do too.  The trees could do the same for you – imagine your ‘stuck-ness’ being sucked in by the roots of the trees and dispersed underground and then imagine the branches and leaves full of creative ideas and inspiration and shaking them out to fall all over you.

People watching can be hugely inspiring.  If I feel really caught up in my own thoughts going round and round in my head, I’ll take myself off to a café for a coffee and just people watch.  The dynamics of human interactions can be incredibly inspiring, we just need to allow our own imaginations to have free reign without judgement or censor.  We can imagine all kinds of scenarios for the people we are watching and observing.  I have found this can suddenly spark an idea for a training course about leadership or communication.

I live my life like a triple A battery, I try to always be: Alert – Awake – Aware.

So, go back to the carefree days of childhood, where everything was possible and creative inspiration surrounded us in its wonderful randomness.

A Common Cause

We took the Heritage project volunteers to London to see the new suffragette statue in Parliament Square and then a guided tour around the Women’s Library, which had its own suffrage exhibition.

It was one of the hottest days so far and whilst glorious, the walk from Victoria to Parliament Square and then to the Women’s Library challenged even the hardiest of walkers!

The Women’s Library was like entering a cave of wonders: full of light and air with centuries of records about women, including some of those we had researched for our project.  What struck us was that until the point that this library was established, women’s role in society was deemed not worthy to record in a systemised fashion.  There was a wealth of information which excited our own readers and to hold the passport of Elsie Bowerman in our hands, or the letters from and to Edith Nesbitt was a real treat.

Perhaps though, the most significant take-away from the day was our encounter at the statue of Millicent Fawcett.  Whilst we were gathered around looking at the statue and the photographs around the plinth, one of our party started a conversation with two other women who had had their photograph taken at her feet.  They were from America and were equal rights workers for low paid women.  We talked about our various roles, the issues we were dealing with and the commonalities of women’s barriers.  We had made our own individual pilgrimages but it turned out for a common cause.

Millicent then was not only the rallying point for women of her generation, but now she is the rallying point for women of our era and those who come after us.  Truly inspirational.

The Postcard Challenge

As I’m sure you are aware, 2018 is the year we celebrate 100 years of a woman’s right to vote. A change bought about by the staunch belief that women should have equal rights to men and whilst much has changed, there are still obstacles to overcome when it comes to the equality of women in society.

Our latest project at the Wayfinder Woman Trust is the ‘Postcard Challenge’. We have been writing to influential women across the UK  asking them to write, draw or sketch something that celebrates female achievement and/or the 100 years of women’s emancipation.

Women in the public eye are a hugely positive example for the women we encounter but there are also unknown women throughout the country that similarly inspire their friends and neighbours. We would ask all of them to pick up a postcard and take part.

Plain postcards can be picked up from our office at Wayfinder Woman, 4 The Labyrinth, 7 Mark Lane, Eastbourne, BN21 4RJ between 10am – 3pm. OR send us a stamped addressed envelope and we will send you some (please say how many you require).

Completed postcards should be returned by 31st August in an envelope please to the above address, or drop in with it and have a chat.

We will be displaying the completed postcards at an exhibition from 7th – 23rd September at The Labyrinth that will inspire the women we support through our charity, The WayfinderWoman Trust and then auction them to raise funds with the aim of developing a fully staffed 5 day a week drop-in advice and support centre for women in Eastbourne.

WayfinderWoman was set up with the express purpose of enabling women to be the best that they can be. We work within our community to promote the confidence, employability and success of women through workshops, seminars, exhibitions, coaching and an annual conference. We have been recognised locally for our work and by The Prime Minister, Theresa May, under the Points of Light Scheme.

We would be delighted to have your contribution to celebrate 100 years of achievement, thank you so much for your help in inspiring the next generation of women.

A Musical Celebration of 100yrs of Suffrage

Wednesday May 9th saw us host a musical celebration of the centenary of votes for women at Christ Church in Eastbourne.

We had some beautiful and haunting music from Fiona Hosford and her golden harp, all of which was either composed by women or had a strong link with female harpists; music to make us smile from the a capella group, Bourne Chorus, who sang some well known classics such as True Colours and With a Little Help From Your Friends.

Kay Cadell delivered some fascinating narration from the Suffragette Diaries and news articles.

The whole event was possible due to our wonderful supporters: SOLegal, Sign Shop Sussex, Tudor History Tours, Ross & Co, Ginger & Sanders, Peter Willson Semi-Grand Piano, Dawson Hart, Crossland & Dudson Training

A lovely evening was had by us all and thank you all for coming.

We all need support

Our guest blog is from Shirley Wardell For many years Shirley has been working with teams on developing leadership skills and was one of the first people in the UK to embrace Nancy Klein’s Thinking Environment approach to her work.

When you listen to people they feel supported, this is what participants on the Research Team Leadership programme tell us. Support is something that stops things from collapsing or crumbling; support is a critical function of a leader, a colleague and a friend.

We all need support for the task we are undertaking, support for our team, if we are lucky enough to have one, and support for ourselves. I turn to Nancy Kline’s Thinking Partnerships® to think about how to get the support I need, but don’t always want.

Thinking Partnerships provide a rare opportunity to think aloud with someone listening profoundly. I have lots of colleagues who can do this and I am also happy to pay for it. Nancy Kline’s suggestion ‘if in doubt, ask’ seems like a good maxim when deciding how to support anyone, including myself.

Here is a glimpse of what ideas came up for me during my thinking time, and thank you to Caroline Homfray, my thinking partner:

Take time to think
Be aware of the needs of others
Create a supportive atmosphere
Be responsive to my feelings
Ask for the support I need early
Facilitate social activity and have fun
Resolve conflicts quickly

What I need often is a listening buddy. When I don’t have one, I crumble a bit and slow down. When I have one I feel I can get around anything. Do you have one?  I would recommend that you do.  If you both learn to listen you can help each other.

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