Find Your Tribe… Love Them Hard!

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Ever since I started my social media course last September, I have had many experiences of  ‘women tribes’.  They have come in many forms… course cohorts, networking groups, and workshops.

What I’m talking about here isn’t my usual group of friends… not my ‘girls’ that have known me forever, who have seen me at my best and my worst (which was probably face down pissed up on a pavement in Newquay!).  These are women I have never met before, who sometimes live in different parts of the country, come from different walks of life but all thrown together for the same cause.

As you may have read in previous blogs, I have recently started a course involving mindset and how you can up-level your business by getting over your fears and negative thoughts.  Last week our cohort of nine, plus our mentor Andrea, had our first Zoom meeting – posh term for ‘a meeting over the internet’!

The conversation involved how we got on with writing ‘Our Story’ (see previous blog)  and what our ‘Wins & Stretches’ have been this week.  What was so refreshing was to see how everyone was completely honest about how they were feeling. No pretence, no making out everything was great.  There were tears and fears laid out for all to see, and whilst there were apologies at first (we are British after all!) this vulnerability was so refreshing and gave us all permission to bear our feelings.  This is how you build trust within your ‘Tribe’.

I came to do this course following a workshop I did a couple of months ago.  Again, this involved women who, once they all got in a room together, realised they’re not alone in feeling inadequate, not good enough, that they can’t reach their potential and that they’re too fearful to push out of their comfort zone for fear of failure.  (Read ‘Yesterday, Three Women Changed My Life’ for more details).

During my six month course with Digital Mums, I was put together with six other women who were taking the journey with me.  We would meet over the internet every Thursday evening and talk daily on WhatsApp.  The fact that these other women didn’t know me from Adam nor I them, almost gives you permission to be your most honest… almost like a counsellor does.

During the six months of the course, we all went through the ups and downs and we were all there for each other on a daily basis… not only to get through the work that we needed to do to pass, but life in general.

Six months after qualifying, I still talk with my ‘Frida K’ girls daily and we managed to meet up in real life just after we graduated in May.  Another meet up is due soon… it’s just a logistical nightmare trying to get seven women free at the same time!

Something really incredible happens when you get a room full of women together… and I don’t mean on a Hen Night! 

On Saturday I went to a ‘Colour Me Beautiful’ workshop to support a wonderful lady I have recently met whilst networking.  I took a friend along with me and I had met a few of the  other ladies there before, but only really as much as ‘what do you do for a living?’.   However, once we all got chatting about how we felt about ourselves, there was a shift.  There was this ‘green light’ where it was perfectly OK to share our vulnerability.

With all these experiences I have come to realise, that it really doesn’t matter who you are or what your standing is in the community… we are all women going through similar things in our lives and we are best when we support each other, not tear each other down.

So, don’t be afraid to do something outside your comfort zone. Go and meet new people – whether it be at an exercise class, running club, mother and baby group, further education or workshops.

You never know where you might find another ‘Tribe’.

Until next time,

 

Love and hugs… TOMD xx

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Be still my beating ovaries!

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So, how did I come to the decision to have my ovaries removed?

Yes, you heard that right. At 37, I made the decision to have my ovaries removed… I went into hospital and had the old egg factory shut down for good!  It wasn’t quite as straight forward as that, so let me explain what happened.

I remember back in 2012 there being a lot on the news about the cancer gene BRCA1 and BRCA2 which are the genes that are recognised as the breast cancer gene. For a while there had been a lot of talk about how you could get tested if your family had a history of breast cancer and when I thought about it, this meant me!

My mum, whilst in her 40’s, had pre-cancer cells identified after a breast reduction operation – they were found in what the consultant took away (more details in my boobs blog).  My Nan had breast cancer, as did her sister.  There was only one other sister (my great Aunt) that had so far escaped.

For those carrying the gene, there was a very difficult decision to make considering whether they had surgery, or whether to have more regular check ups dependant on their chance of the gene turning into cancer

For me there was another reason why I wanted to look into this.  Mum was fighting ovarian cancer and there is a clear link between breast and ovarian cancer.  There was no way I would want to put myself at risk, especially with ovarian cancer being called ‘the silent killer’ due to its lack of symptoms in the early stages.

So, having made the decision to get our family history checked out, I went along to the GP who made a referral to the Genetics Department at the hospital.  What followed as a consultation to talk over my family history and an explanation of how our genetics work, what the process was, time frame etc. Then, with my mum’s agreement, they would need a blood sample from her to determine if she had the gene.

I then went onto see a consultant to discuss more about potential results and procedures. We discussed my family situation, my desires for any more children (NO WAY!) and what I would like to do if the result came back positive and negative.

It was explained to me that if the result came back positive, I would know for definite and could make a concrete decision on how far I would want to protect myself against cancer in the future.  If the result came back negative, it would mean that Mum didn’t carry any of the BRCA genes, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t carry another gene out there… they just haven’t found it yet!

Basically, I would be making a decision on either a definitely, or a maybe.  After several months of waiting for the results to come back, the latter was the reality I dealt with.

I was given an option to leave things be, but as there were no routine checks for ovarian cancer like there are for changes in the breast, this could be leaving things to an element of chance.  I was offered the option to have my ovaries removed on the basis that there might be another gene out there that my Mum could be carrying, therefore giving me a  50% chance of carrying it too!

After a lot of consideration, I decided to go ahead and have my ovaries removed.  My whole family were behind this decision especially my husband (nothing to do with the fact that he dodged the vasectomy bullet, or should I say scalpel!).  Whilst it seemed a drastic move, the consultant was happy to do it and happy to put me on HRT so I didn’t plummet into menopause at 37.  I’d had all the children I wanted (two’s enough for me!) and there seemed no good reason to keep them.. the ovaries – not the children!  I also wanted to give my mum (and my family) some peace of mind that I wasn’t going to have the battle she had… at least not in this part of my body.

So, by the summer of the following year (2013), I went into hospital to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed by keyhole surgery.  It wasn’t a decision I made lightly, but it was the best one for me and I never had any doubts about what I was about to do.  Oh, apart from when they started wheeling me along on the bed down to the Ear, Nose and Throat Theatre.  My husband asked them a little concerned ” You do realise she’s having her ovaries out don’t you?”.

I was fortunate that the surgery went well, and apart from a small infection in one of the incision sites afterwards (and I couldn’t drink for a week!!) I made a quick recovery.  The HRT I’d been prescribed seemed to hit the spot and gave me no problems whatsoever.  But not everyone is the same, so this is something that needs to be considered very carefully and monitored.

I’ve never looked back since having it done. I must admit, it’s strange not to have any kind of cycle – and I still don’t know if I have one on an emotional level (my husband would say ‘YES’) but I certainly don’t miss them.  When I’m 51, I will slowly come off of the HRT and allow myself to go into the menopause gently… like walking down a hill, instead of jumping off a cliff at age 37.

What sits well with me, without sounding morbid, is that Mum left this world knowing that I wouldn’t be going through the same battle that she unfortunately lost.

To find out more on ovarian cancer visit the NHS website;

https://www.nhs.uk/be-clear-on-cancer/symptoms/ovarian-cancer

Symptoms to look out are;

  • feeling full quickly or loss of appetite.
  • pelvic or stomach pain.
  • needing to pee urgently or more frequently than normal.
  • changes in bowel habit.
  • extreme fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • unexplained weight loss.

 

Until next time,

Love and hugs from TOMD xxx