Thursday, 28 January 2016

#CervicalCancerAwarenessWeek :: My Story



This week is Cervical Cancer Awareness Week and I thought it is the right time to talk about my story and journey. I've wanted to write a post like this for so long but it was an incredibly difficult and challenging time in my life and re-writing a moment that filled you with incredible fear and doubt is not easy but I hope that what happened to me will encourage all of you to get to the Doctors and have a smear test done. I can't begin to tell you how important it really is.

Way back in June 2011, my 25th Birthday was fast approaching and I received a letter from my GP asking me to come in for my first smear test. The first thing I did was tell me my mum about it, she is the most comforting and reassuring woman I know and she told me there was nothing to be worried about and to get myself booked in. I didn't hesitate or put it off, I rang straight away and I was booked in two days later.

On the day, I wasn't nervous at all. I remember feeling quite relaxed, as if I was there simply to have a blood test or have my ears syringed (something that unfortunately I have to have done twice a year!) My favourite nurse, Barbara called me through and we were chatting like we usually would. She's the most sweetly natured nurse in the world and I could talk to her about anything, she's great. Anyway, she explained what would happen and that it would literally take a few minutes and it would be over.

*WARNING - This next part may be a little TMI*

I took my bottoms off and was given a towel to put over myself and I climbed up onto the bed. She then inserted the speculum which is a plastic device that opens you up enough to see the cervix. It wasn't painful at all, just a little strange! Barbara then told me she would be scraping some of the cells from my cervix and it would feel like little scratches. She wasn't wrong. Again it wasn't so much painful, just uncomfortable which in all honesty, it's going to be because it's inside you! A few seconds later, she told me it was all done, I could get dressed and that I would receive a letter in a week or so with my results. I left the doctors and put it to the back of my mind.

Around five days later, I was at work when my mum called me. My mum only calls me at work if there is an emergency such as my daughter or something has happened at home so of course I panicked. She told me that a letter from the NHS had arrived and she had opened it (I always ask her to open any mail for me that looks important if I'm not there to do it myself). She read the letter out to me which detailed the lab findings. They had discovered abnormal cells on my cervix which they described as borderline/mild cell changes, or to put it scientifically - low grade dyskaryosis.
I remember feeling stunned and going quiet but I wasn't so much scared really. It said I would need to go to hospital to have a Colposcopy which is a more detailed look at the cervix and to assess what treatment I would need. Mum reassured me so much over the phone and when the call finished, I went back to work and got on with my day. But as soon as I got home, I fell apart. That was when I was scared.

I got an appointment fairly quickly and before I knew it, I was sat in the waiting room. I was surrounded by so many women that day, including ones who had lost their hair. That really put the fear of god in me because I knew what abnormal cells could lead to. I was called in by a lovely nurse and was greeted by a male doctor who turned out to be one of the specialist gynecologist's in the area (highly reassuring).
So once again I had to undress my bottom half and get up on the bed that was rather strangely in the middle of a very large room, a bit like a scene from a horror movie. My legs were put in stirrups, speculum put in and then this huge device which I can only describe as a telescope with a giant mirror on the end was brought down, thinking about it now it's actually quite funny. 
Throughout the time he was looking at my cervix, I had two lovely and friendly nurses holding my hands and chatting away to me about all sorts of things like tattoos, our kids, men! I know they were there to distract me away from what was going on but it didn't work. I could feel everything and no matter how much they spoke to me, I knew what was going on.

After around 15 minutes, the doctor got up to remove his gloves and wash his hands etc and then he came and sat next to me. He said that he could see the abnormal cells on my cervix and they would most certainly need to be removed asap. I was terrified and straight away asked him;

'Am I going to get Cancer?'

He was very straight forward with me and said that I would undergo treatment the next day to remove the cells and that he cannot guarantee that all the cells would be removed. I appreciated his honesty but I was absolutely terrified about the worst case scenario.

The following day, I went back to hospital with my friend Michelle, I really needed the support and as my mum didn't want me to wheel her about in her wheelchair (she said it wasn't fair on me), I knew I could rely on Shell to be a fantastic stand in.

Back into the room I went, stripped off my bottom half, back on the bed..ugh. Only this time, the doctor asked me if it would be ok to have a medical student present to watch the procedure. I wasn't bothered to be honest, she was a young lass and how else is she going to learn!
The doctor then explained to me what would be happening. The treatment I would be getting was a loop diathermy (although now I believe it's known as laser ablation). It is a loop of wire that projects a laser and it is moved over the cervix to zap away the cells. Thankfully, I was given an anesthetic down there but my god it hurt!! Honestly, I've been through child birth and tattoos and that little monster stung like a bitch!!!!!!!

Once it took affect, the doctor got started. The nurses once again held my hands and chatted away to me about anything and everything but then they asked me if I wanted to look at my cervix on the monitor! I'm not usually bothered by that sort of thing but because it was a part of me it just felt a bit strange so I decided against it haha.

Around 30-40 minutes later, the treatment was over. I was given a tampon as there was bleeding from the diathermy, got dressed and told to wait in the recovery room. Shell, who unfortunately could not be in there with me, was there waiting for me with a huge hug and her big cheery smile and I instantly felt relieved. A nurse came in and gave me a leaflet about what I had just had done (relevance? I'm still not sure) and said that I was free to leave whenever I felt ready. The car journey home was quite unpleasant, every bump in the road made me feel sick and was painful.

Three days later, another letter arrived for me. I was physically shaking when I was opening it as it was about to tell me whether the treatment was a success or not.

IT WAS!! They had successfully removed every abnormal cell and I was now clear. I have never been so relieved in my whole life!

It's been five years since I went through all of this and thankfully, I have been getting the all clear from my smear tests since. I can't even begin to contemplate how things could've been different if I didn't go, which unfortunately is something that so many young women are doing.

Cervical cancer is the number one killer of women and it is becoming far too common for women to put it off or forget about going for their smear tests. I firmly believe that the age should be reduced from 25 to 21 as their are constant stories about girls who have died from cervical cancer because they were refused a smear test, simply for being under 25. 

I'm not doing this to force anyone of the age to go and get it done, but after reading my story, don't you think it's worth it? It's terrifying, it's worrying, it's an inconvenience I get that, but it's so important!

Please Please PLEASE, if you are 25 or have not been for a smear test in a while, get yourself booked in for one. If you can find the time to go shopping or go out for a meal with friends, you have no excuse finding time to do a test that could save your life.

http://www.jostrust.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/cervical-cancer-prevention-week






Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Organisational Tips For Working From Home



If, like me, you love the idea of working from home, it’s important to realise that it’s not a lifestyle that suits everyone. You see, if you’re going to be a successful home worker, you need to be super organised. It’s far too easy to get distracted and behind with your work when you work from home, which is why being organised is so important. To help make working from home easier, here are a few tips for being more organised.

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Create a dedicated workspace

Whether you work in an office or at home, you need a dedicated work space. Don’t make the mistake of not having a dedicated work area, as this will only make completing your tasks harder. Working at the kitchen table on the odd occasion is fine, but doing it every day is not.

If you want to make a success of working from home, you need a dedicated working area. This doesn’t have to be a whole office, but a small area that is just for working from. If you have a spare room, having your own office is ideal. If not, popping a desk in a spare corner of the room can also work well.

Plan your time

If you aren’t given daily tasks by your boss to complete, it’s crucial that you plan out your time. Don’t waste time doing nothing, make sure to take full advantage of every minute. Working from home requires discipline, so make sure to be strict with yourself from the start. Use a diary to plan out your time and daily tasks - this will help to ensure that everything gets done as and when it should.

If you want to work successfully from home, set yourself work hours. Ideally, these should fit with regular office hours - something like working nine until five is perfect. Don’t make the mistake of rolling out of bed at the time you’re due to start work. Get up at least 40 minutes beforehand, shower and get dressed. (Some people opt to work in their pajamas, but this isn’t the way to do things, as you need to feel as if you’re actually at work.)

Make sure that as well as scheduling the times that you’re meant to work, that you also have set times that you have breaks at, including a lunch break. If possible, use your lunch break to get out of the house - go for a walk, meet a friend for coffee. Make sure to spend a little time out of the house each day.

Outsource

Don’t waste your time by doing every last task yourself. While there are some tasks that you need to complete yourself, anything that can be done by an outsourcing company, it’s best to outsource. This gives you more time to focus on your work, and will prevent you from becoming distracted.

For example, if you need to send something to a client, don’t walk to the post office to send it. This will waste precious time and put you behind on the day’s tasks. Instead, hire a courier to transport the item to the client. The cost won’t be much higher; you’ll save time, and you’ll know that it will arrive to your customer in good time. Or, if, for instance, you need to send off your accounts - most home workers do their own accounts, don’t stress over them yourself. Instead, hire an accounting company to deal with them for you.

Have a work phone and computer

When you finish work, you should be able to close the door on it. Instead of using the same computer and phone for your personal life, have a personal phone and computer as well as work ones. That way, at the end of the day you no longer have to deal with correspondence about work, you can switch off. This is important, as having some time away from our work helps us to relax, and when we’re at work, work harder.

There you have it, all the best advice for being more organised when working from home.



Thursday, 14 January 2016

Working From Home :: Q&A



I have had so many people ask me questions about working from home. It seems that for every one question I answer, I get another three! So I thought I would do a Q&A to cover everything that people want to know about and hopefully it will answer everything. If there is anything else you want to know, just leave a comment on this post and I'll answer it the best I can.

What made you decide to work from home? 

If you had the choice of getting up every morning no matter the weather, getting stuck in rush hour traffic for five hours, to be then trapped in a dingy office or shop for eight hours. Or waking up, throwing whatever clothes on that you fancy, pull out the laptop and work from the comfort of your bed, which would you choose? 

Was it a difficult transition?

Not really. I have always detested the fact that no matter where I worked, there was always a supervisor or manager leering over me, watching my every move. I used to feel incredibly claustrophobic and that they didn't trust me. Moving from that to being left alone at home was one of the easiest moves I have ever undergone.

How did you find a work from home job?


I have written a post about this here.


Is it hard to stay motivated when you work from home?

For me personally, I don't have an issue with motivation. When you work around people, you are constantly being monitored so you have no choice but to crack on with your work. But when you work from home, you are on your own and don't have anyone on your case. It all depends on what type of person you are. If I have work to do, I get on with it because I know it has to be done and I hate putting things off. Procrastination is (thankfully) not something that affects me.

Do you still have a boss/manager/supervisor?

Yes of course. Although they're not so much managers, they're more like team leaders.  

Do you miss the interaction of being around others? Do you feel cut off?

Not at all. I have always been the type of person who enjoys my own company so not being around my colleagues isn't that big of a deal for me. A lot of people would consider working from home 'unsociable' but this could not be further from the truth. I'm still very much a social butterfly, but being stuck in an office for 40 hours a week with people who only talk about work is not something I miss in the slightest.

Can you talk to the people you work with or just your boss?

Absolutely. I talk to my colleagues every day via a chat software and they are the nicest people I have ever had the honour of working with. It's also great that there are some who live within close proximity of where I live! We're not restricted to only talking about work either, we talk about all sorts and always have a laugh.

It must be boring working from home all the time, everyone enjoys getting back to their home at the end of the working day.

That's true and I was one of those people that lived for the moment my shift ended. But even though I work from the comfort of my own home, it doesn't mean I see it as any less of a sanctuary. I am and always will be a 'Home Body', my home is my world and I can't think of anything better than living and working from it simply because it is my favourite place in the world. 

But surely it's restrictive? 

It really isn't. Think of it like this, unless you are a labourer or a delivery driver, you are stuck in the same building day in day out - is that not restrictive? I can't say this for every work from home job, but with mine I can literally work anywhere I like. For example, I am currently house sitting for my in laws and I'm working at their house then next week I will be back at home. I have plans to go to Ireland at some point this year and I will no doubt take my work with me there too. I'm so far from being restricted because all I need is my laptop and an internet connection.

How do you get paid?

The same way everyone else does, I get a wage. Only I am self employed which you will find is quite common when working from home. I have to send an invoice every month with the hours I've done and then five days later I get paid!

What are the benefits of working from home?

The list is endless but there are a few perks that personally I think are a bonus. Firstly, I can keep on top of the housework. Instead of me working Monday-Friday and then spending my weekend cleaning and washing, I can just do it throughout the day instead. Secondly, I can use my phone whenever I want, listen to music and even watch the TV/Netflix. And lastly, I don't have to worry about what I look like. I can roll out of bed, throw on whatever clothes I like and not have to doll myself up to look 'professional'.

What are the downsides of working from home?

If I had to pick anything that I would consider a downside, I would say that it's being self employed. It's not that big a deal but it just means that I have to do tax returns - Boo Hiss!

I hope I've answered all of your questions but like I said, if there is anything I haven't covered then please feel free to leave a comment. 







Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Help Your Grandparents Enjoy Their Later Years



No matter what age you are, there’s a good bet your grandparents played a gig role in your life. When I was a kid, I would often visit, and they’d always be there to wipe away the tears when I was upset. Or to reward me with sweets and biscuits. Grandparents really encapsulate what it is like to be a kid because they are like our parents, but with less nagging!

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 That’s why I feel it’s important to work on improving your relationship with your grandparents. And, at the same time, you need to try to help them enjoy their later years. Elderly people often get overlooked as they get older, and this is a real shame. So make sure you are still a big factor in your grandparents’ lives as much as possible. Here are some suggestions to help them improve the quality of living.

Visit Often
First things first, make sure you are a familiar face. This means you need to work on visiting your grandparents as often as you can. If you pay them regular visits, they will realise and remember that people care for them. They will have someone to talk to and interact with, and you can keep an eye on them. Try to make sure you pay them a visit once a week if they live near to you. If it’s a bit further away try to make it once a month. As long as you can keep up appearances you will really help make a difference in their lives.

Get Them a Carer
It’s important to have someone to look after your grandparents during their later years. They might become a lot less mobile and able to care for themselves. And that’s why you need to make sure you put measures in place to make sure they’re looked after. I would suggest you get them live in care so that they are well taken care of. This is a much more practical way of looking after them. It means you don’t have to visit all the time as this is not always possible. You will have peace of mind knowing they are well taken care of, and their quality of life will improve.

Make Sure They Eat Right
It’s also going to be important to check their diet and see what they’re eating. Make sure they have a balanced diet and that they’re eating enough to keep their strength up. You might also find that your grandparents will be taking lots of pills and vitamins. They will need to take these at meal times so make sure they stick to this. Don’t badger them about it, but do make sure you check up on it from time to time.

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Grandparents should be treasured by all of us, and we should spend as much time as possible with them. As they get on in years, they will become less mobile and their quality of life may diminish slightly. That’s why you need to make sure you do what you can to help them enjoy their later years as much as possible.



Monday, 11 January 2016

When Brands Take Advantage



All of us have received those e-mails from brands that go into a long winded essay about 'How much they love your blog' and how they are keen to work with you to promote themselves. But how many of us have told them where to go?

Last week, Poppy from Poppy alla Norma tweeted about how she was angry that a brand had expected her to blog for them completely free of charge. I felt compelled to reply to her venting my own frustrations as I too am the victim of these people. She mentioned that she was called condescending by the brand for simply telling them that it is unethical to expect her to work for free. Who exactly has the authority to say such things? Absolutely no one.  

In the two years that i have been blogging, I have been very fortunate to be compensated by 99.9% of the brands and companies that have contacted me and I am, as ever, incredibly grateful. But with the good comes the bad. Many people have contacted me over the years with the most ridiculous propositions, such as;

- 'Write a 5000 word blog post with photos and social media and we will pay you $5.' (£3.43)

- 'Create a post with photos and we may enter you into our competition.'

- 'Will you put a banner on your blog to promote our company, we have no money but it is good publicity for us'

Believe me, this is a drop in the ocean compared to the endless free loading correspondence I receive. 

Though blogging is a career for a few people, the majority of us do it as a hobby and we do it in our own time. There is absolutely no valid reason why we should not be compensated for the work we do, do these PR executives or marketing dogsbodies sit behind their computers sending e-mails everyday and not receive a wage for it? I think not! So why do they think they can get away with expecting freebies? I'll tell you why.

These companies, regardless of their stature or popularity, will look to the cheapest form of advertising and that, unfortunately, is us. The little league bloggers. They know full well that if your name is not up in lights such as Zoe Sugg or Tanya Burr, who charge upwards of £20,000 for advertising, then you are cheap and cheerful. I have confronted many companies about this, specifically the ones who tell me that I should feel 'privileged' to even receive any contact from them, that expecting me to give up my free time to publicise their brand with a word and photo heavy post and spend a week advertising the fact on social media, is completely unacceptable and like Poppy said, unethical. 

It infuriates me to see so many new starters to the blogging world who are falling victim to these people. I get it ok, it's exciting to be contacted by them, it makes you feel like they have really gone out of their way to find your blog and then heavily praise it but, as harsh as it is to say it, you were picked at random. 

You should never feel intimidated by brands and never give into them if you do not agree to their terms. There is no shame in turning them down and no one will ever think less of you for it. So the brand may never contact you again, but is that really the end of the world? Of course not because for every brand that expects you to work for free, there is another that will compensate your for your time and hard work. 

You are a blogger, not slave labour. 

 

Friday, 1 January 2016

Hopes & Goals For 2016



Happy new year everybody! I hope you all brought it in with plenty of booze and laughter. I don't rate New Year really, me and Carl are usually in bed by 11! We're getting on now, we're a bit past getting hammered and doing a walk of shame.

But once again, it's the start of a new year and with that comes my hopes and goals for the coming year. These aren't so much resolutions, simply because i believe when you make 'resolutions', they're just waiting to be a huge fail and i don't want that. I think of them as more of a set of wishes of things that i will take steps towards to make them happen without the worry of letting myself down. So, what do i have lined up for myself and my family for 2016? Well...

Sort myself out financially

I wouldn't say i'm in thousands of pounds worth of debt, far from it infact. But i have lived hand to mouth for many years and i find it really soul destroying when i am left with no money at the end of the month after paying bills. In May, i will have finally paid my car off after forking out over £200 every month for the past 5 years, it's been extremely hard but once that final payment is made, i will be able to breathe a little easier. I need to get myself into a position where i pay my bills off and have some spare cash to treat myself and my family, something i've not been able to do for a long time. So although i'm not in debt, i'm determined to make sure this is the year i pay off what can be paid off in full.

Decorate the house

In 2015, we managed to re-decorate the toilet and the den (sarah's old bedroom). Our aim was to get her new bedroom and the living room done aswell by the end of the year but due to heavy workloads and money issues, it never happened. Decorating is such a long, leborious job and although i'm more than capable of doing it on my own, with Carl's help it will take half the time but he only has weekends off. We aim to get the living room, Sarah's room and the kitchen done this year all being well.

Buy house plants

This is a bizarre goal i grant you but i have my reasons. My nana firmly believed that having house plants around your home created a sense of calm and aided relaxation. At the time i thought it was all a load of rubbish but we used to have a willow tree in our living room and it really did help to relax us all. So i intend on buying a couple of houseplants at some point, maybe some succulents aswell.

Make time for a massage

Surprisingly, after over a decade of dancing, i don't suffer with sciatica or sore muscles like most dancers; my trouble is in my upper back and shoulders. When i was dancing, i would visit a physio every week to have a full back massage to relieve the strain to the muscles and it was the best feeling ever. But since having Sarah, i've neglected to take care of my back and it's become incredibly painful and feels heavily knotted. This year, i plan to make time to go for regular massages to relieve the tension.

Carry on loosing weight

The most overdone resolution in the world but because i've already started, it doesn't really count. It's Carl's sisters wedding in August and i'm hoping to wear a size 12 dress for it.

Drink more water

You can go on Instagram and come across so many people who do nothing but drink water throughout the day. Despite what you hear, drinking excess water doesn't do anything for you. It may hydrate you and fill you up, but it also washes out any nutrients or vitamins your body needs. However, i have decided to drink a pint of water as soon as i wake up and before i go to bed simply because my skin is horrific and it needs a helping hand. Hopefully this will help it get back to a more hydrated and radiant glow.

Start vlogging

Vlogging is something i have been ooing and aahing over for some time now and if i'm honest, i'm still not 100% sure if i want to do it. I've had a few people tell me that i should definitely consider giving it a go but there's too many things to take into account before i take the leap. We shall see.

Take a photography course

I've had an interest in photography for as long as i can remember and now i have a proper camera, it's the best time for me to take an online course and improve my skills. This isn't just about photography for blogging, i also want to branch out and maybe set up a photography business. I love the idea of weddings but i would prefer to do family shoots, it's a really big thing for me so i am definitely going to look into it.