" I never wanted to be the poster girl for womb cancer. But when a job comes along and you are the right person in the right place with the right skills to do it, then sometimes you just have to go for it.
My name is Daloni and I am a journalist by profession, wife and mother in the rest of my life and in 2014, aged just 50, I was diagnosed with womb cancer. It was advanced and aggressive – a stage 3c2, grade 3 uterine serous carcinoma.
It was, as is the way of these things, a hell of a shock. I think of myself as reasonably well informed about health – I have a degree in biochemistry and I write about health policy for a living. Yet I had never heard of womb cancer.
I looked into the numbers and you could have knocked me down with a feather. Womb cancer, I discovered, is the fourth most common cancer among women behind breast, lung and bowel. Rates are rising rapidly yet there is no awareness campaign, no posters about the symptoms to look out for, no charity flying the flag for womb cancer, no celebrity talking about her diagnosis….In fact none of the things that we have come to expect.
So I started writing and I started talking. My first piece was for the Guardian newspaper and it was well received, opening other doors. The Eve Appeal, a charity devoted to preventing gynae cancers through research and information provision, asked me to speak to an audience of celebrities at a charity auction. We put womb cancer into The Tatler magazine, the Daily Mail and sundry other publications – and I talked about my periods in front of Jo Brand, the cast of TOWIE and Grayson Perry. Next I was invited to join the Womb Cancer Alliance, a group of academics and patients funded by the James Lind Alliance to identify the top ten research priorities in womb cancer. On the back of this I co-authored a paper for Oncology News – and I am co-author on a scientific paper due out this month in the journal Gynaecologic Oncology.
And so it’s gone on. One thing has led to another and over the last couple of years I have written for the Women’s Institute magazine, for the feminist website the F Word and lesbian magazine Sisters. I’ve done interviews about womb cancer for BBC television and radio, for Sky News, for ITN and Magic FM as well as the Huffington Post. I’ve blogged for the Eve Appeal and WCSUK. There is literally no-one I won’t talk to about my periods these days.
I don’t want to sound like a big head here – that’s not why I am writing this blog. I started writing about womb cancer first to help me understand my own experience and explore whether I could have done anything differently had I been better informed (the answer is no, by the way). I also wanted help other women recognise the symptoms that could lead to a cancer diagnosis – and act on them.
My central message has always been that women need to learn to talk about our periods. We need to stop giggling in corners and get to know our bodies, what’s normal for us and to stand up for ourselves when things go wrong.
It’s not always been easy to do this awareness raising. Bear in mind for a moment that talking about womb cancer means talking about periods, vaginas, wombs and sex. There is no getting away from it. And talking to the media involves being very open about your own personal experience – often with your photo attached. It takes courage and, if I am honest, the kind of skill and experience that I have developed during three decades in journalism.
So, as I say, I never wanted to be the poster girl for womb cancer. But if it helps – and enough of the feedback I receive tells me it does – then I am happy to do it."
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xx Kaz xx