One of the interpreters had a quick look at what I was going to say and pointed out a couple of places where she may need to explain more so I knew that I would have to speak at a steady pace and then maybe wait for her to catch up with me.
This is a guest blog by one of our ladies; please read and share. This is an issue that needs to be known about and something must be done to help these ladies.
On Saturday 8th December, I was lucky enough to go along to a deaf club as my friend, one of their members, was holding a Cancer Awareness Day. She has been diagnosed with the disease and will be having her hysterectomy in January.Speaking in public doesn’t bother me in the least; I got very used to it in the pub trade, both in my pubs and at district meetings. This would be slightly different as I knew I would most probably be the only hearing person at the club but there were to be interpreters there.
Before the meeting, my friend happened to pass a comment that she was sorry that the MacMillan nurse who had been due to attend wasn’t going to be there as people in the health professions needed to know about the lack of information that is available to the deaf. I realised as the day went on just exactly what she meant.
I stood up and started to share my experience of womb cancer with the club members. At the end, I just said that if anyone had any questions....... but I didn’t get to finish my sentence as so many hands went up in the air!
This is when I realised how many deaf women are left in the dark as to health issues. I was there to specifically talk about womb cancer but the questions I was asked covered a whole lot more. I was quite shocked and upset that these women knew so little about their bodies and their reproductive organs. One lady who had had a hysterectomy at a young age had had an ovary left behind but it hadn’t been explained to her about menopause; another lady asked me if she could still get womb cancer even though she had had a hysterectomy. And all because the time isn’t taken to ensure that deaf people completely understand their illnesses and treatments.
I sat and spoke to the interpreters at length afterwards to try to find out more about the difficulties the deaf have. There are many. For one, hospital appointments are too short and, in many cases, the interpreters aren’t fully qualified so have a very limited vocabulary to pass on the information. If a deaf woman gets the diagnosis of cancer, where can she go for help? She certainly can’t pick up a phone, which is what I did. Also, for many deaf, British Sign Language is their first language with English being the second. These languages are totally different so to start researching on the internet for many deaf people is a non-starter too as the language used is just too confusing. My friend backed this up by saying how isolated she felt when she got her diagnosis.
I prefer to hear first hand of horror stories and I don’t spread rumours but a story one of the interpreters told me horrified me. A young deaf woman was ‘sold’ the idea of a hysterectomy as just ‘periods stop’ and agreed to the operation without fully knowing what it entailed. She got married a couple of years later and was absolutely heartbroken when she learned that she wouldn’t be able to bear children. The operation was obviously not explained fully to her. And it also meant that she was kept in the dark while she was in hospital. Can you imagine what it must feel like? To have everyone around you talking about you but not able to understand? Horrendous isn’t it? And I have no reason to disbelieve the interpreter as she is passionate about her job.
I sat for a long time chatting, with the help of the interpreters, with some of the women. Two women told me about some unusual symptoms they have been having with their periods and I advised them both that if they were worried, which obviously they were, then for their own peace of minds they should go to see their doctors. We were also talking about the number of women who get diagnosed with womb cancer in the UK every year (over 7,000 and rising) which the women found startling as they realised that my friend was probably not the only deaf woman in the country to get this diagnosis.
I had to leave around 2pm as I needed to get back to London but before I went, the women thanked me for going to see them and said they found everything very useful. They have asked for something similar in the new year and I think it would be useful to have someone from one of the ovarian cancer charities along as well to answer their queries.
I have also decided to run something similar in London for deaf people having learned a lot from that session and will be working on that in the next month or so. If the women I met that day have so many fears and questions, then probably every deaf woman in the country has the same. And I will be writing letters to anyone and everyone that will listen in an effort to try to help the deaf going forward and I will invite them to the session I run so that they can see the difficulties the deaf encounter first hand. This is something that needs to be changed urgently!
Blog posts about life with womb cancer; by me and other womb cancer fighters and survivors. Plus occasional guest blog posts on relevant subjects.