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

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.

#TechSheCan!

We are delighted to be part of PwCs #TechSheCan initiative.  Since the inception of WayfinderWoman we have been encouraging women and young girls to think about STEM as a career and technology in particular.  Our motivational business conference last year ‘Inspiring Through Technology’ highlighted the enormous impact of tech and the unlimited opportunities available within the industry.

Across the board, fewer than 30% of women consider tech as a career option and of those only 3% say that tech is their first choice.  Yet this is where the careers of the future are going to be located.  Throughout the industry there are cries that employers cannot find the people they need with the necessary skills, or the motivation to learn.   By inference then, jobs within that sector are going to be well paid and employers will have to be flexible in their working practices to keep employees on board.  Some skills are so difficult to find that you can quote your own hours and rate of pay.  Why wouldn’t that appeal to a woman who wants a satisfying career that fits around their family commitments?

We kicked off our commitment to the initiative with a series of workshops running through April to July in partnership with TechResort and Eastbourne Volunteers to encourage women to consider a new career within tech.  Watch this space!

#100 years

It’s difficult to accept that one hundred years ago women had no say in who would rule their lives, who would write the laws, who would represent them at Parliament.  WayfinderWoman are running a series of events to celebrate the emancipation of (some) women, those over 30 with property, and in May they are going to sing out that celebration.

They can announce that Bourne Chorus, the well-known choral group will be joining their WayfinderWoman presents evening of professional music and readings from suffrage writings on 9 May at Christchurch, Seaside, Eastbourne.

It will be a music evening with a difference, perhaps unique for Eastbourne.  In the beautiful environs of the church guests will be able to enjoy a glass of wine and listen to the haunting melodies from Fiona Horsford, harpist.  A highly skilled musician her repertoire ranges from classical to jazz to pop.  Intertwined with the music, professional  actor Kay Cadell will read extracts from writings which have been unearthed by one of Wayfinder’s Heritage project volunteers.

In the second half the sublime Bourne Chorus will perform their own archipelago interpretation of music that reflects the strength and determination of the women who fought for the vote. Their varied programme will bring the audience into today’s world, whilst Kay Cadell also performs extracts from writings through the ages.

Come and join us to celebrate #100 years over wine and music. Entry is £15 in advance and £20 on the door. Tickets can be purchased by emailing info@wayfinderwoman.com

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