2018 | Typecast

Did You Know This About Me?

Within a few minutes of being on Twitter last Tuesday I saw a couple of my old school blogger mates share an old school style meme post. Back in the day (2010 if you really want to know), these blog posts were all the rage and are currently seeing a welcome resurgence.  So, thanks to Kate and Molly for the inspiration - it's nice to stretch the fingers and the mind a little bit with something like this.  


When was the last time you cried?

I'm generally not a crying type of person but a few weeks ago I went on a run that took me above and beyond my comfort zone. I hadn't ever run more than 7 miles before so when my running watch buzzed at 8 miles and signalled the end of the run, I sobbed.  It wasn't a pretty sight but they were mainly tears of relief. 

If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?

I hope so. I'm the type of friend that's loyal, trustworthy and funny. I've noticed that my friendship group has changed over the years. I've learnt to be more selective with my immediate tribe but also that my attitude and demeanour affects a wider circle which reflects back.  It's much easier to be nice to people and let the shit go. 

Do you use sarcasm a lot?

Me? Nope. Never.... *whistles nonchalantly* 

What’s the first thing you notice about people?

Hair and shoes.  I was accused once of looking someone up and down in a sneering way but that's probably just my resting bitch face, however you can tell a lot about people from their hair and their shoes. I have horrendous hair envy, simply because I never know what to do with the birds nest that sits atop of my head.  And shoes... ah, shoes... they always fit no matter what the rest of your body looks or feels like.

I was searching for a good shoe quote and came across this from Iris Apfel.  Just perfect! 

Scary movie or happy endings?

I usually fall asleep before the end of any film but I'm a sucker for a happy ending. 

Favourite smells?

I'm partial to a bit of vanilla or lilies when it comes to room scents or candles.  For perfumes, I have a love of Burberry (original, London and eau de toilette for different times of the day or occasions). For food, it's garlic - really strong garlic! 

What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?

Turkey. And I wasn't overly impressed as I got food poisoning! 

Do you have any special talents?

Not really. I'm a 'jack of all trades, master of none' type of person. I'm currently teaching myself how to pay a variety of songs on the ukulele though.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Firstly a PE teacher and then either Air Traffic Control or an administrator in the RAF.  I didn't accomplish either of my dreams. 

How many countries have you been to?

Not enough.  Just nine. 

What was your favourite / worst subject in school?

My favourite subject was PE and my worst subject was Geography. 

What is your favourite drink? 

I'm a bit of a water junkie at the moment due to being on a health kick but if my arm was twisted up my back and I was being made to have an alcoholic drink then I'd choose gin... a nice strong gin, with a carefully chosen, complimentary mixer.  It's weird, isn't it? Vodka and coke used to be my go-to drink but I'm struggling to remember the last time I had one.  My other partiality is Straw Hat red wine - cheap and cheerful.

What would you have named your children?

Rachel was going to be Siobhan or Rebecca but no-one really liked those names - and anyway, she just looked like a "Rachel" when she was born.  Michael was always going to be Michael after one of his grandfathers.  Jake's name was chosen by Rachel and Michael when we got a bit stuck for ideas. 

Gratuitous photo of my very grown up children! 

Who are some of your favourite YouTubers?

Ok... this is easy.  Casey Neistat, Jenna Marbles (she makes me HOWL with laughter), Lydia Elise Millen, The Slow Mo Guys, Dominique Sachse, Trisha Paytas (both channels, don't judge me), Channon Rose, Lost LeBlanc, Ladbaby (easier to find on YouTube because the vidoes don't show up in my Facebook feed any more), Pixiwoo, Chase Amie, Simply Nailogical, Geoff Marshall, JaackMate, Kelly Roberts... and so many more but these are channels that I will actively seek out. 

How many boyfriends have you had?

Two serious relationships.  One when I was sixteen and it lasted two years.  The next one, who I met at eighteen years old, became my husband.

Favourite memory from childhood?

There's plenty. It's always hard to pinpoint just one when you're put on the spot like this. There were lots of visits to my grandparent's houses and I was always in awe at the way my grandmother's provided for everyone (read more about how amazing they both were here) and I remember 'dancing on my dad's feet' at family parties. We had many caravan holidays where I seemed to be outside a lot, and there were loads of trips to interesting places. Looking back, I had a bloody great childhood! 

Tell us one of your bad habits…

I get bored very easily and I find it hard to concentrate.  I know it's not really a "bad habit" but I have so many unfinished projects and 'great ideas' that never come to fruition simply because I can't be arsed seeing them through. 


I hope you enjoyed reading that.  Did any of my answers surprise you?  Now, as is tradition with these vintage memes, I have to 'tag' a few people and hope that they join in. I'm really interested in reading/hearing the responses from the following people either on their blog or via their Instagram Stories because I luffs them all in different ways. 

Becky - English Mum 
Tanya - Mummy Barrow
Melinda - What Mel Did
Clare - Clare Mackintosh 
Susan - Susan K Mann

PS... if you want to join in with this meme then feel free to do so and tweet me a link to your blog so I can come and have a read! 


Things I Learnt In February

It's been a while since I added to my "Things I Learnt In..." series. Life feels a bit like a merry-go-round sometimes and you can be screaming "STOP... I WANT TO GET OFF".  Things, however, have slowed down a little bit and I'm maybe not quite as dizzy, I'm out running four times a week and I've been collecting little snippets again from around t'internet that have interested or amused me and hope that they entertain you too!


The First 10 Minutes Are The Worst is my new podcast. For new runners, Couch To 5K has really taken off and there's loads of advice about using this distance for healthy exercise and then for progressing to half or full marathons but I get asked lots of questions when I'm leading one of the groups in our community running programme - GroupRun Blackburn.  I wanted there to be a place where people talked openly, honestly and humorously about running and answered some of the 'frequently asked questions' so I teamed up with my friend, Rowena, and we now produce a monthly podcast.  You can listen on iTunes, Podbean or search for "The First 10 Minutes Are The Worst" in any podcast app.  We also have a Facebook page and a newsletter to sign up to.  It's early days but we've already had in excess of 400 downloads of the first two episodes and lots of lovely feedback. 

This article includes two of my favourite things - underground railways and 1980s nostalgia. Swiss photographer, Willy Spiller (FABULOUS name, by the way) as living in New York and documented his subway travels by photographing his fellow travellers. He published the images in a book called "Hell On Wheels" which showed that there was some glamour amid the hustle and bustle - and often danger and crime - of city life.

Things I Learnt In February : Willy Spiller - Hell on Wheels

I was born and bred literally just down the road from Blackpool and tend to view it with child-sized rose-tinted glasses.  It was always a happy place for me - family days out, walks along the beach, visits to the Pleasure Beach once a year, a brilliant indoor market and a huge shopping centre.  I even lived a short way from the town centre in a bedsit when I first left home.  But, just a few streets away from the Golden Mile, there is a depravity not often seen by the tourists.  This article has it spot on.  It's a tough (and long) read but it leaves you understanding a bit more about why the town looks a little bit shabby and why people don't really want to leave... ever.

I've recently booked a holiday and arranged 'extra leg room' on the flights there and back so when I read the title of this article - "Who Owns The Space Between Reclining Airline Seats" - I was intrigued! Those four inches or so are probably the most argued about commodity on an aircraft. This article asks us to think about the monetary value on that space and if you would be willing to pay for the right to recline your seat compared to the amount you'd pay to stop it from happening, depending on where you are sitting.

Things I Learnt In February : George at Asda Union Jack Teapot

Have you seen the latest offerings from the Asda Homeware range?  I was shopping yesterday in store and fell IN LOVE with their Union Jack teapot. I took some sneaky pics of it and some more of their kitchenware for my Instagram Stories and then found all sorts of stuff on their website so now I'm just pleading with the universe for some extra cash so I can go and kit out my kitchen! 

Could you survive without your phone? Or at least, without a 100% charged phone, constantly accessing the internet morning, noon and night.  This blog post from Michael Legge made me laugh, especially at the bit where he talks about watching a film without a phone to look things up on IMDB or being distracted by social media alerts. Leading on from this I was watching a Jenna & Julien podcast video where they were reviewing bad phone apps.  One was called "Die With Me" [iTunes/Android] which is a chat style app that you can only use if you have 4% battery life or less.  The review was hilarious to watch but I can't ever imagine getting down to that level of battery life without hyperventilating!! 

Are you struggling to be angry at something but don't want to read the Daily Mail?  Here's an Outrage Calendar for 2018 which should keep you going.  (NB: I'm not sure of the origin of this image but I found it on Facebook)

Things I Learnt In February : Outrage Calendar for 2018

Things I Learnt In February : Selfie Bag from The Cotton Bag CoI recently got my hands on a "Selfie Bag" from The Cotton Bag Co. It's a custom designed tote bag (very handy, very durable) with a few additions for you to be able to take the perfect selfie whilst out and about.  There's a perfectly designed pocket for your phone - so no scrabbling around at the bottom of your bag, another pocket for a selfie stick, and a fold out reflective sheet to help you find that perfect glow.  It's all a bit random but a perfect present for that Instagram addict in your life, especially as it includes a brochure with tips from Queen of the Selfies, Kim Kardashian, on how to take the best selfie!

Things I Learnt In February : Rex London Tropical Palm Trinket TrayIf you're looking for cute gifts for family and friends, or even corporate reasons, then check out Rex London (it's a rebrand of the company DotComGiftShop who I've worked with a few times). They've got everything from classic toys to candles so it's really worth having a scout round their website.  I've got a couple of their tropical palm trinket trays adorning my bedside table now. 

My car is an old banger and it's a bit like Trigger's Broom.  It's probably had almost everything replaced on it bar the engine but it's still going strong (a Ford Focus from 2000 if you're interested). It a proper "run around" car with a huge boot for the dog and, if I'm being honest, I don't take very good care of it so I was challenged by Armor All to use their products to give it a good spring clean. I'll publish the before (eek!) and after pictures with some car care tips in a full blog post soon!

Things I Learnt In February : Slimline Wine - zero sugar, zero carbs
I'm not going to talk too much about running here as I waffle on about that way too much in other blog posts but I'm really watching what I eat and drink at the moment.  This gave me the perfect excuse to try a couple of bottles of SlimLine Wine which promises to be zero sugar and zero carbohydrates. Healthy wine... who knew?  I wonder if these means I can now actually count it as one of my "five a day"?  I'll probably do a full review on the wine soon as it's going to be our 'drink of the month' for the next podcast recording, so keep a watch out for that.

Here's is my video of the month. A guy called Ewan McClure taught himself a new technique for painting a self-portrait and filmed the three hour process from behind a two way mirror.  The timelapse is fascinating!


I think that's it for now!! I'll try not to leave these monthly updates so long from now on because I really do enjoy writing them so I hope you enjoy reading them too?  

The "hashtag not sponsored" section : Now, I know I don't need to say this but none of the above links are sponsored. I occasionally get gifted items to try out or review but I'm not under any pressure to blog about them.  What I will do, is mention them if I feel that other people will enjoy them and I'll write a longer post if I believe they warrant it.  There's been a lot of talk in blogger communities recently about transparency and payment for articles or videos so I'd like to lay my cards on the table and say that after 16 years of blogging I'm not going to try and mislead any of my readers.  If you've got any feedback about that then please feel free to contact me. You can find ways to do that in my ABOUT ME section.

What Have Some of the Latest Health Studies Discovered?

What Have Some of the Latest Health Studies Discovered?

Every day it seems a new health study is published claiming one item of food or drink can cause cancer, while another could help prevent it. As technology has advanced, many of these studies are backed up by more substantial evidence than before, meaning it can be worthwhile to pay more attention to them. These are four of the latest health studies to come out in early 2018 that cover a variety of common health issues.

Positive Impacts of Vaping

Government health officials have ruled that e-cigarettes should be available on the NHS on the back of the Public Health England’s first ever review into the science of vaping. The report concludes that health professionals should go much further in encouraging smokers to vape as a healthy alternative to smoking. While it doesn’t go as far as claiming e-cigarettes should be prescribed, it did find that the likes of a VIP electronic cigarette or any other such model only offer five per cent of the harm of actual cigarettes.

Acidic Drinks are Bad for Teeth

Plenty of studies and basic science have pointed out how damaging sugar can be to our teeth. One of the latest investigations by scientists from King’s College London focused on acidic drinks such as fruit teas and flavoured water. Perhaps unsurprisingly it discovered that drinking these between meals and savouring them could increase the risk of tooth erosion from acid. Continuous sipping and holding such drinks in the mouth before swallowing was seen as the main cause.

Depression and Birth Control

Over 30 years of research was studied and compiled at the Ohio State University into the link between progestin-only birth control methods and depression. These birth control methods include the ‘mini’ birth control pill and an implant, for example. Led by Dr Brett Worly, it found that there was no correlation between the two, highlighting the safety of such methods and suggesting that any negative effects may be down to an individual basis.

Yogurt is Good for the Heart

Finally, for all you yogurt lovers out there, here’s some good news. A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension discovered that an increased consumption of yogurt could reduce high blood pressure and the chance of heart disease. Women who had two or more servings of yogurt a week were 30 per cent less likely to experience a heart attack. It’s not advising eating three tubs a day though, as that could possibly have the opposite effect.

New studies into our health are constantly going on, so it’s always worth checking the news for the latest health advice and information.

Grand National Sweepstake Kit - Printable Race Cards & Betting Slips

The Grand National will see forty horses line up in a bid to become the next winner of what is one of the UK’s most prestigious horse races. Taking place on Saturday 14th April, the National currently sees Blaklion as the favourite, although having been favourite last year and finishing fourth, he is far from a dead cert to win.

Total Recall is making his debut at Aintree and is the second favourite on Paddy Power Grand National odds. Cause of Causes will be hoping to go one better than last year, having finished in second place behind One For Arthur.

If you think you can predict who is going to win the National this year then why not print off this handy sweepstake kit and use it with your work colleagues or friend and family? Included are race-cards, rules and betting slips for you to print off to help you make this year’s Grand National a little more interesting.

Grand National Sweepstake Kit - Printable Race Cards & Betting Slips - RACE CARD 1Grand National Sweepstake Kit - Printable Race Cards & Betting Slips - RACE CARD 2

Grand National Sweepstake Kit - Printable Race Cards & Betting Slips - PRINTABLE BETTING SLIPS

The First Kiss

I sat alone, glancing furtively to the left, willing him to make the first move. I was shy; I always had been. He stood up and flicked his eyes in my direction. I quickly looked away but it had happened – our eyes had met for a split second.

He stood up and attempted to casually kick a stone away. He missed. He shoved his hands into his coat pocket and whirled around on his heel. He walked up to me, leaned over and pecked me on the cheek.

I felt that patch of skin burn and tingle. My face flushed and I coyly looked at the ground. I mustered up all my courage, rose from my seat, walked over to him, tiptoed up and gently brushed the corner of his mouth with my lips. I rushed back to my original seat.

My sister jumped off the adjoining swing and shouted, “YOU KISSED ANTONY SHIELDS! I’M GOING TO TELL MUM!” She jumped on her bike and peddled as quickly as her chubby little legs would carry her.

I focused on Antony’s face, feeling slightly sick, mumbled something about awful six-year old sisters, shrugged slightly and said, “See you at school tomorrow? Please don’t tell anyone?”

He stood there and said nothing in return. He just stared at me. I picked up my scooter and followed in the direction of my sister. I glanced over my shoulder just once and he was still stood there, watching me.

I caught up with my sister and, using the advanced knowledge that only a 10-year old older sister has, threatened to smash up her beloved her Sindy doll up and tear up her Twinkle comic if she didn’t keep her mouth shut.

To be fair, neither of them have mentioned it again. Ever! I have though... it formed part of my speech at my sister’s wedding. And mum never knew until then either!


I thought this as a fun way to introduce this Valentines-themed infographic from The Independent Pharmacy.  It's got some great facts and figures in it about Valentines Day. 

Sex, health, and romance on Valentine's Day.

Save Money On Your Energy Bills... Forever!

Save Money On Your Energy Bills... Forever!  - Look After My Bills helps to reduce your energy bills without you doing a thing.

I'm a sucker for a good tip that helps me save money so was over the moon when Look After My Bills approached me to help them spread the word about their free (YES, FREE) new service from energy switching site, The Big Deal

Some background, so you know they're not just a 'new kid on the block', The Big Deal has over 400,000 members, established over four years.  They use clever research tools and bargaining power to negotiate exclusive deals in energy and broadband.  Members save, on average, over £300 per year by switching to better, cheaper deals. 

Website  | Facebook |  Twitter

The new initiative, Look After My Bills, has been launched to help reduce your energy bills without you doing a thing - saving you even more time and money! You simply sign up to the Look After My Bills website, fill in the simple form and let them do all the hard work for you (this entails continuously assessing the best energy deals and switching you to another good deal when your current contract is about to come to an end). 

Save Money On Your Energy Bills... Forever!  - Look After My Bills helps to reduce your energy bills without you doing a thing.So...
✔ Free
✔ The best deal
✔ No effort from you, the customer
⇉ Win Win Win

I've already signed up and can totally recommend the service. With the best will in the world - and all the advice about swapping energy suppliers to save money - I always put off that research until "next weekend". I've been in my current house for 12 years and never changed energy supplier! I now know I've currently got the best deal for me and all the switch-over kerfuffle was handled by Look After My Bills with three short, informative emails so it's one less thing for me to worry about.

Now... what can I spend the savings on...?

Website  | Facebook |  Twitter

Save Money On Your Energy Bills... Forever!  - Look After My Bills helps to reduce your energy bills without you doing a thing.


Turning A Corner

FitbitchesMOVEment : Turning A Corner - I've turned a corner.  Feeling negative about running has been locked away and if it threatens to rear its ugly head again I'm going to look back over the past couple of weeks and remember exactly what it was that changed my attitude.

I've turned a corner.  Feeling negative about running has been locked away and if it threatens to rear its ugly head again I'm going to look back over the past couple of weeks and remember exactly what it was that changed my attitude. 

FitbitchesMOVEment : Turning A Corner - EIGHT MILES - I've turned a corner.  Feeling negative about running has been locked away and if it threatens to rear its ugly head again I'm going to look back over the past couple of weeks and remember exactly what it was that changed my attitude.
First and foremost, hard running - and running further - is paying off.  If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I ran my furthest ever distance last week... EIGHT MILES!  Claire - my training partner - arranged a Sunday run but initially wouldn't tell me how far we were going so I couldn't psyche myself out. It was Really Fucking Hard Work and I could feel my body having to push beyond any boundaries I had experienced before after six miles but I did it!  At the end I got overly emotional and sobbed in the street.  

FitbitchesMOVEment : Turning A Corner - 50 miles in January -  I've turned a corner.  Feeling negative about running has been locked away and if it threatens to rear its ugly head again I'm going to look back over the past couple of weeks and remember exactly what it was that changed my attitude.
I also hit my goal of running 50 miles in January.  It actually ended up as 63 miles in total, even with a run totally written off because of tight calves. This was a club challenge but I'd also signed up for a medal and compression top from Race At Your Pace to keep me focused. I've decided to keep the momentum going and aim for 60 miles in February. It's a shorter month but hopefully achievable. 

Next... born over the dregs of a bottle of gin and named in a flash of inspiration, The First 10 Minutes Are The Worst launched with its first episode in January.  It's basically just myself and my friend, Rowena, talking about running in a relaxed, truthful and humorous kind of way. The podcast will be monthly for now so make sure you're all tuned in ready for the next episode which will be published on 25th February. There were a couple of teething issues with the first episode but we know how to fix those, we have original theme music composed by Peter Clarke and you can find us by subscribing as follows:

iTunes | search for us in any podcast app | RSS 

Follow us on Facebook  |  Subscribe to the newsletter 

Listen to the first episode on Podbean 

The First 10 Minutes Are The Worst - the podcast

And finally, this month's race has already been run.  On Sunday morning I laced up my trainers and headed to Witton Park in Blackburn for the Blackburn Road Runners Winter Warmer 10k.  Club members aren't normally allowed to enter unless they have a charity place or have been given a place by a race sponsor.  My place was gifted last year but, after officially joining the club, I was given the option whether to run or not.  The route is a tough one with the first 3k totally uphill but, if I've learnt one thing over the past few weeks during my 10 mile training, it's that I HAVE to battle my demons.

Blackburn Road Runners members are THE BEST cheer team ever - even more so on home turf. The way in which they are situated around the course means that you only have to run for a couple of minutes before there is another team in place to give you a few words of encouragement or a 'high five'. 

FitbitchesMOVEment : Turning A Corner - Blackburn Road Runners Winter Warmer 10k 2018 - I've turned a corner.  Feeling negative about running has been locked away and if it threatens to rear its ugly head again I'm going to look back over the past couple of weeks and remember exactly what it was that changed my attitude.

Another great part of the day was finally meeting Pat.  She's a Fylde Coast Runner and we've been chatting and supporting each other on Twitter for ages.  We ran together for the whole race and it was like we'd been friends forever.  Her friend, Chez was running just a short way in front of us and was listening to my podcast for most of the race. Give them both a follow if you're on Twitter... @patsylou59 and @chezpete 

Turning A Corner - Strava personal best times
Apart from that first three kilometres, it was the best race I've run in a very long time. Friends noted that I looked happy as I ran (a rare occurrence for me) and Anna even said that she didn't recognise me coming over the brow of one hill because my running style has changed a bit - hopefully because I felt so confident. And... I somehow managed to get three 'personal best' times for specific distances (probably on the downhill bits but if Strava says it is so, then we're taking it as proof!) PLUS I knocked  a whole 6 minutes off last year's 10k time!

February is only four days old and already I'm loving it.  10 miles... I'm coming to get you! 


Be The Best Version Of Me

Be The Best Version Of Me - FitbitchesMOVEment logo - #fitbitchesMOVEment

It's all well and good having new goals and challenges at the beginning of a new year but we put ourselves under enormous pressure, don't we?  The new year feels like a clean slate - a chance to start afresh, but how many of those Grand Ideas are binned by 20th of January?

One of my favourite hashtags to use on Instagram is #BeTheBestVersionOfMe. I use it on all my running photos as it makes me examine who I am, what I'm doing, where I'm going and what I'm doing to get there.

So, all my new year goals are running and health related because it should hopefully be easier to fit this into my current lifestyle.  For the first part of this year I've challenged myself to run in a 10 mile race and I'm slowly building up to that distance.  It's a massive deal to me because I still find 10k (6 miles) a slow, hard slog but the race is booked and the challenge is on! I'm keeping a journal of all my runs between now and then because I found this helped last time I did something similar.

The other two running challenges are sort of linked.  The first is to run 50 miles in January and the other is is to run 1000k in 2018 - something I started out doing last year but didn't achieve. Both mean that the distance averages out at around 12 miles per week which, when you're marathon training or trail running is a piece of piss to achieve.  Not so much when you find a five mile 'undulating' run a bit tough.

The increased training mileage needs an extra run a week but that fits in perfectly with my choice to continue with my Couch To 5k mentoring and my running club Wednesday run.  Maybe, with the 10 mile run in mind, I should have been selfish and concentrated on my own training between now and March but being a part of the C25K community in Blackburn is where my heart and my motivation lies. It helps to keep me going.

So how am I maintaining that promise to 'be the best version of me'? For me, it starts with having the right tools for the job and that's half the battle won!

I needed new trainers, obviously. No, seriously, I did because I had pounded over 500 miles in the last pair and they were due to be replaced.  I was wearing Adidas Duramo 55's and found them comfy and supportive - and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  So I ordered two pairs in the January sales and I'm using both pairs equally. 

I also invested in a couple of decent sports bras from Panache after having them recommended by my friend, Kate (it's worth looking up their "Click, Fit and Collect" service which let's you order online but have the bras delivered to a participating retailer for a professional fitting).  I've been wearing the Sculptress non-padded sports bra which fits like a glove and keeps everything where it should be.

Finally, I spent my Christmas money on running gear.  I ordered a couple of club branded jackets and running tops and got them personalised. It's a total 'All The Gear And No Idea' situation but at least I don't stand out like a sore thumb on the race day photos...

And the rest? Well that's down to me, isn't it? I've always said that I find it easier to motivate others than I do myself but I'm lucky that my training buddy is one of my 'original crew' and the tables have turned. She's now kicking my arse and making me run up hills, run further and run faster.  She never lets me give up even when she's not feeling it herself.  Also, the rest of the 'original crew' are now all members of the same running club so I see them regularly, get lots of encouragement from them and, most importantly of all, they ALL inspire ME to push myself harder because I've seen what they have achieved by taking on board what I said to them in the beginning. I do need to take note of how I encourage and motivate others and apply it personally.

I had this blog post - Confessions of a Shit Runner - saved for a while and re-read it today. It really resonates me, especially the bit that says:
"Today was about making it to the line. And I did."
That could refer to the start line or the finish line, couldn't it? Half the battle is just turning up.  The rest of it - for me at least - is trying to finish.  And my goals are to finish my 50 miles in January, to finish the 10 mile race and to finish the year having run 1000 (or more) kilometres. And lots, lots more in between!

Be The Best Version Of Me - The East Lancs Hospice 10k - 14th January 2018
East Lancs Hospice 10k - 14th January 2018


As an aside, I had this blog post half written and came across this infographic created by hims who are a wellness company that encourages preventive health for all. I glanced at it thinking it wasn't relevant but then realised that I'm now 45 years old and some of those recommended checks are actually for people of my age and not 'old people'. Food for thought!

Be The Best Version Of You - Infographic - I had this infographic sent to me in an email entitled "Be The Best Version Of You". I glanced at it thinking it wasn't relevant but then realised that I'm now 45 years old and some of those recommended checks are actually for people of my age and not 'old people'. Food for thought!

Now the Jade Goody effect has worn off, will you still have your smear test?

Now the Jade Goody effect has worn off, will you still have your smear test? || Today, I've written about how the Jade Goody effect has worn off and how, in the UK, we are at a 20-year low for women having smear tests, especially in the 25-35 age bracket. I want to raise awareness for health services across the UK that make it easier for women to attend their smear test appointment so I've written about it on my blog.  Read in full at www.iamtypecast.com and please share if you can.  Thanks.  #womenshealth #smeartest #cervicalcancer #smearforsmear
Photo Credit : Jerry Kiesewetter

Back in 2009 a report noted that media coverage of celebrity illness triggers a 'cause and effect' situation. The example used was the positive effect on the take-up of cervical screening (a smear test) after the coverage of Jade Goody's battle against cervical cancer.

Jade was part of that hard-to-reach age group - the women aged 25-35 - and because Jade was a woman who wore her heart on her sleeve, made mistakes in a very public arena and spoke her mind, her circumstances created an identifiable event which was much more effective than a national campaign or a simple leaflet. 

Fast forward nine years and the Jade Goody effect is wearing off. Across the UK cervical screening figures have fallen with more than 1.2 million women not taking action on their reminder for a smear test - a 20-year low. Because of our wonderful National Health Service, the smear test is free, is available to all women over the age of 25 (and to any sexually active woman of any age, upon request) and we are advised to have have our smear test every three years. 

The reason I'm talking about this is because I saw a Facebook update from my friend, Claire, over the weekend and my jaw dropped when I read it.  

There's a fantastic initiative in Blackburn at Barbara Castle Way Health Centre which ensures that every woman who works regular office hours can be seen for a smear test at a time convenient to them, including at the weekend.  The clinic has been running since the beginning of the year but Claire was the first person who had actually shown up to take advantage of the service provision.  Yes, seriously!! Many appointments had been made however everyone, bar Claire, had been a no-show... in a time where it feels like the NHS is at breaking point!

OK, every woman knows that a smear test isn't the most comfortable thing to go through and you're probably not going to be swapping phone numbers with the nurse who does your test, but its definitely something that I used* to put up with because I was so fearful of the alternative. 

(If you have never had a smear test or you're unsure what happens and why, then it's really worth checking out this handy web page from Jo's Trust which explains everything in plain language.)

We all lead such busy lives that fitting in a five minute appointment sometimes feels impossible, especially when GP surgery hours usually clash with work and family commitments. It would definitely be worth researching in your local area to see if there is a similar offering and spreading the word.  

If you have a similar clinic service in your town, please leave the details in the comments below for other women to use as a reference.  

*You may be wondering why I said "I used to" go for smear tests.  I had a full hysterectomy when I was age 31 due to a long history of gynaecological problems.  One of these issues was found during a regular smear test when I was 22 which led to colposcopy treatment.  This solved the initial problem but there were many more issues which led to the full hysterectomy - not a decision that was taken lightly by my consultant or myself, but one that was the end of a long journey.  Because cancer had affected a few family members - including my daughter - I was always vigilant about attending smear tests when required and it's something that I want to encourage all women to do too.

EDITED - 22nd JANUARY 2018
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

When I originally wrote the above post, I wasn't aware that 22-28th January was Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, although I had heard about the #smearforsmear campaign from previous years.  I sent Jo's Trust a link to this blog post and they reached out to me to share the new facts and figures with regards to young woman not attending smear tests.  I'm adding it in now because I totally believe it's important to be fully aware of all information when talking about an important subject like this.

First some facts about cervical cancer...

  • The majority (99.7%) of cervical cancers are caused by persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which causes changes to the cervical cells
  • 220,000 UK women are diagnosed with cervical abnormalities each year
  • Over 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 890 women lose their lives every year
  • Around 5 million UK women are invited to cervical screening each year yet one in four do not attend
  • Women aged 25-49 are invited every three years and women aged 50-64 are invited every five years

Did you know that body shame is responsible for 35% of young women not attending smear tests? There are also concerns about the appearance of their vulva and smelling 'normal'. Also, almost a third of women aged 25-35 admitted that they wouldn't attend their smear test if they hadn't had a bit of a tidy up around the bikini area!  Many of the women surveyed also said that they would rather miss their smear test then a gym class or a waxing appointment.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust is concerned that body image issues, including perception of what is ‘normal’, could be putting lives in danger. Across the UK, one in four eligible women (aged 25-64) do not take up their smear test invitation, this rises to one in three among 25-29 year olds and is even as high as one in two in some areas of the UK. The charity is releasing its new data at the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week to launch its smear test awareness campaign #SmearForSmear.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35, yet among the 25-35 year old women questioned, almost two thirds were unaware of this, despite being in the most at risk age group. Worryingly high numbers do not understand the role of smear tests in preventing cervical cancer as 37% do not think you can reduce your risk of the disease and, despite low screening attendance among the age group, almost every woman (94%) said they would have a free test to prevent cancer if available.

Going back to the information my friend, Claire, presented with me (see above), this is now backed up with a new statistic that says among those who have delayed or not attended, a quarter (26%) find it too hard to make an appointment and over a third (35%) wouldn’t go if they had to take time off work. Also, 30% of those who have never attended a smear test are unsure where to go for a test

Robert Music, Chief Executive Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “Smear tests prevent 75% of cervical cancers so it is a big worry that so many young women, those who are most at risk of the disease, are unaware of the importance of attending. It is of further concern that body worries are contributing to non attendance. Please don’t let unhappiness or uncertainty about your body stop you from attending what could be a life-saving test. Nurses are professionals who carry out millions of tests every year, they play a big part in ensuring women are comfortable.”

To close, I'd like you to watch this video and maybe share your lipstick smeared selfie.  It could be the reminder or the encouragement that someone else needs.

About Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust (www.jostrust.org.uk) is the UK’s only dedicated charity offering support and information to women of all ages and their loved ones affected by cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. The National Helpline is on 0808 802 8000.


What Can You Buy Someone Who Is Having Treatment For Cancer?

If you've been here since the beginning you'll know that one of the first posts I shared on this blog was the story about discovering my 14-month old daughter had Neuroblastoma - cancer of the adrenal gland. Since then, I have attempted to raise awareness by encouraging people to talk openly and honestly about their experiences with cancer through my blog series, Cancer - Your Story. I've also raised over £2000 for Cancer Research by participating in a few Race For Life events and by throwing myself out of a plane in a skydive. I've always tried to use this blog as a platform to share articles and news about cancer treatment developments.

One question I was always asked when my daughter was in hospital - and one question that I have asked friends who are working their way through treatment was "what can we bring that's going to help?" And you never want to sound patronising, do you?

I recently discovered Cancer Care Parcel which was set up by Dr Shara Cohen after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2013. The ethos behind the company enables people with cancer to reduce their worries and bring some calm into their lives.  Initially, their social media network offers support and advice but they also sell care packages and hampers which are an ideal gift for someone who is affected by cancer and the company sources deluxe British products.

What Can You Buy Someone Who Is Undergoing Chemotherapy?   Cancer Care Parcel
There are a number of suggestions on their website but I took a look at their "Comfort For Chemotherapy" box and was assured that all items are hypoallergenic and natural and the box is packed with items that will give comfort and relief at any stage of cancer treatment. 

As you can see in the image, the box includes anti-sickness and anti-nausea products, items to keep you warm and comfortable, a colouring book and pencils for a portable and soothing activity, a food bag and water bottle for handy snacks and a set of headphones that are device compatible.

This Comfort for Chemotherapy box retails at £78.99 at the time of writing and there are other options on the website. Now this may sound expensive as a one-off purchase however these gifts would retail at a higher cost if bought separately and it could be an opportunity for a few people to club together for this gift, knowing that it will bring hours of comfort and ease to the recipient.

Head on over to their website and see what they do - it's so much more than a shop

Cancer Care Parcel 
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For the purpose of this review, I received a Comfort For Chemotherapy box. After the review I donated it to a friend who is undergoing chemotherapy at the moment. 
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