Public awareness campaigns are a regular feature of everyday life. Not a month goes by without our attention being drawn by a headline statistic to another condition and the plight of others.
January was the month for raising awareness of the need for cervical cancer screening, but this year I kept a pretty low profile, choosing not to add my voice to the discussion.
I can’t pinpoint exactly why but I do think it was largely dictated by my mood over Christmas and New Year.
I thought I would be ok with it all as I hit those major milestones in January that reminded me of this time last year, but to be honest on reflection, I don’t think I was.
Raising awareness for causes is something which as an ex-PR I understand very well and last year, fresh out of life-changing surgery, I was happy to bang those drums, make a noise and tell all and sundry, particularly midlifers like me, to pay attention to their health.
This year, however, was different. I quite simply wasn’t in the mood. The words weren’t there, or not different ones at least and this may have been part of the reason why I just couldn’t bring myself to blog.
Oh dear friends it’s been a rollercoaster year, both physically and mentally but I count myself lucky in so many respects, not least because I have reached my first year milestone and am now focusing on the next. Who knew ticking off months and holding down firmly on life’s fast forward button could be so therapeutic?
I didn’t want my blog to become all about cancer, after all I started it as a celebratory landmark for my entry into the midlife years of parenting. Truth be told, however, I have realised that it ie cancer is a part of me now and I can’t avoid it and it is the telling of personal experiences, particularly when it comes to cancer where every scenario, diagnosis and treatment is so individual, that can really make a difference with these campaigns.
I have so been looking forward to the end of January that I had a completely different post planned for today but sitting down on Friday evening, nursing a welcome glass of wine and watching the news I was shocked by the reports that none of the three main health screening programmes in England for bowel, breast or cervical cancer met their targets last year and that in the case of cervical screening, tests were stockpiled still waiting to be tested. It somehow feels wrong that on today of all days I don’t say something, however, small or even repetitive!
So all these wonderful charities like Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust that campaign tirelessly to get people to attend their screenings in the first place are let down at the back end, because results of those screenings are not reaching patients soon enough. Shocking, bad and unacceptable on many levels.
It is great that we have these all important screening programmes available to us and that there are systems in place to measure the performance of our health service. The important bit though is in making a difference and effecting change. After all people's lives are at risk here.
In terms of cervical cancer, news reports over the last month said that women need to be encouraged to attend the screenings as attendance is at an all time low. Fear, lack of time, forgetfulness, misunderstanding - these are unacceptable reasons for not attending. Our health is our wealth and life is way too short for regrets. I attended and still got caught out for whatever reason. But whilst one change in the normality of my cervical cells might have been missed, the next one it could be said saved my life.
Whether it is you, a family member or a friend don’t let them forget the importance of these checks which save lives and if as in the case of cervical cancer results are late ie beyond 14 days - the message is not to ignore it. The mantra that no news is good news is not always right. Get on the phone. Follow it up. They could be caught up in the backlog. In the meantime, today on World Cancer Day spare a second thought for all those 18 million people worldwide diagnosed with cancer last year and for those who may be receiving that devastating news today.