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 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 ( 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 
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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. 
Blog Layout Designed by pipdig