Just a little test could save your life.




Saturday 1374  – 5.04.2014

On Thursday  I received something in the post that made me cry and feel very sad.. it was an invitation to take part in Bowel Cancer Screening which apparently, here in the UK, they offer you every 2 years when you are over 60..
I didn’t know that, did you ?
The reason it made me cry was because my ex-husband had bowel cancer before he died, nearly 6 years ago at the age of 59, leaving my 2 grown-up children without their father.. A most terrible loss for them.  
It seems as though discussing bowels, bums and poo are still taboo which is so daft when we all have bowels and bums and make poo!!  so I want to share some information about bowel cancer with you to do my bit to try to raise awareness.
You will find slightly different statistics on different websites but I’m going to give you a few brief facts from the leaflet the NHS sent me :-
  • People who take little exercise, people who are overweight, and people who have a diet high in red meat and low in vegetables, fruits and fibre are all thought to have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer.
  • 1 in 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime
  • It’s the 3rd most common cancer in the Uk and the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths

  • 8 out of 10 people who are diagnosed with it are over 60..
  • Regular bowel cancer screening has been shown to reduce the risk of dying from bowel cancer by 16%

All of the above are really important to know but this bit is especially worth taking note of  –

  • If bowel cancer is detected at the earliest stages there is over a 90% chance of survival.. Yes over 90%, that’s pretty good odds isn’t it?

So what are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

Well the most common ones are these : –

  • a persistent change in bowel habit, especially needing to go to the toilet more often or having diarrhoea for several weeks
  • bleeding from the back passage or blood in the bowel motion
  • severe abdominal pain
  • a lump in the abdomen
  • unexplained tiredness or weight loss

“These symptoms do not necessarily indicate bowel cancer, but if one or more persists for four to six weeks then the GP should be consulted.”

bowel-cancer-banner-1If you live in the UK , are over 60 and get one of these invitations PLEASE do the screening.  The screening does not diagnose bowel cancer but it can detect tiny amounts of blood in faeces ( poo) and if these are found further tests can be done.

Screening was ending at age 69 but is now being extended to 74 but if you are over those ages see details of the freephone number and website as you can request a screening kit. If you are young ( lucky you !! ) PLEASE encourage your family members or friends to do the screening, it could save their life and look out for the symptoms yourself because as you will see in the case of my ex-husband ( who wasn’t overweight and took exercise) you can still get cancer of the bowel under 60.

Research has shown that only just over half the people offered the screening take it up .

Don’t be one of those that doesn’t take up the offer.

Ignorance isn’t bliss… it can be deadly.

I know I have visitors from outside the UK do you have similar screening programmes in your country?

As ever I welcome your thoughts  but I do want to end on a lighter ( and rather cruder! ) note after all this necessary serious stuff.. Keeping with the theme though !




Saturday girl signing off.


You can find my photography blog Photomania here 



Work life balance went up the Swannee.

Saturday 1477 – 7th April 2012

Last week I told you about the loss of my sense of smell in my post Olfactory Deprivation  

Little did I know then that this week I would be writing about stress at work and how it can make you ill but here I am doing just that.

Many of you will know that I’m a Social Worker  and work with Older People. Some of you will know that I am also one of the safeguarding leads which means I work with cases where there is suspected abuse or neglect either by family, friends or agencies and their workers.

Of course this type of work takes its toll but it’s not just that which causes the stress – Oh No, it’s the paperwork; the mountains and mountains of paperwork. The government led processes that take 3 times as long as they used to and become ever more complicated with many, many different steps to try to remember with constant changes.

That and the feeding of computers which I can tell you are voracious!  It is hard to keep up and the work just keeps coming and coming. Also because of cut-backs when staff have left or been moved to different departments they have not been replaced which naturally increases the pressure on everyone who’s left.

I’ve been feeling stressed for some time; unable to finish paperwork, thinking about work too much when I wasn’t there and feeling overwhelmed. On Monday morning I drove to work with a heavy heart; I felt like I literally had a weight on my chest .It takes me 40 minutes to drive to work and by the time I got there I was feeling pretty tearful and not at all well.  As soon as I got into work I started crying and couldn’t seem to stop… My body was telling me that enough was enough.

I’m lucky in that I have excellent work colleagues and a wonderful manager. None of this is her fault she fights valiantly to improve things for us all at a considerable cost to herself and is the best manager I’ve ever worked for. She sent me home with strict instructions to visit my GP and take at least 2 weeks off which I have done.

I’m not the first to buckle and I don’t suppose I’ll be the last but many of my peers in the Social Work field are under considerable stress too so why have I been unable to cope ?

The doctor I saw on Monday was excellent having been off with stress herself she understood exactly how I was feeling and told me this was not my fault but was because my work was made so difficult.

She recommended a book by a Dr Tim Cantopher called Stress Related Illness which I’ve now got and which is shaping up to be very good indeed and most helpful. It highlights the type of person who is most likely to have difficulty coping with work related stress. 

They are people who want to try to make things better for other people, who are prone to self-criticism, hard on themselves and fear failure.  Unfortunately I certainly fit into all those categories.

I haven’t got to the bit in the book about what I can do to stop this happening again after I have recovered !! but I wanted to share this with you not for sympathy but for the following reasons.

Firstly If you are feeling out of control of your work or overwhelmed with stress act NOW – don’t wait until you get ill. Buy the book or see your GP,  go for counselling or just work out why you are not managing your life and get support where you can.

The second reason is that Social Workers get a bad press and I wanted to redress the balance and tell you that the majority of us do great work and this caring about what happens to other people and trying to improve their lives often takes its toll on the individual.

Thirdly, when there is the next scandal with the death of a child or vulnerable adult (and there will be, as these things are unfortunately impossible to prevent at times) and you hear some jumped-up Government minister making a Social Worker the scapegoat and saying he will make sure this doesn’t happen again etc, etc , think about this post and remember that the Social Worker in question will probably be just like me, overwhelmed with work, hampered by ridiculous government led processes and feeling very undervalued. Remember too that whilst we used to spend 3/4 of our time out doing face-to-face work and 1/4 doing paperwork this figure is now reversed thanks to that same government and it’s policies and legislation. ( and I don’t just mean the present government but successive ones! )

By the way the photos of flowers throughout this post are of the bouquet of flowers my colleagues sent me. Wasn’t that nice of them  🙂  My photography has been keeping me sane and the production of my 2 blogs has helped take my mind off things while I recover.

Added 9th April My friend Eleanor, a Social Worker who has sensibly retired, sent me this photo in response to this post and I just HAD to add it in as it made me laugh.. ( the first picture isn’t accurate but the rest pretty much are!)




Just wanted to add a link to an excellent blog I follow called Sarvodaya as it just so happens I noticed today, when I was taking a break from writing this to catch up on some blogs, that he had also written about stress in his Bad Job Leads to Bad Health post

I thought it was time I threw in a poem too and what more appropriate one than this by Phillip Larkin about work!  


Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?
Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork
And drive the brute off?

Six days of the week it soils
With its sickening poison –
Just for paying a few bills!
That’s out of proportion.

Lots of folk live on their wits:
Lecturers, lispers,
Losers, loblolly-men, louts-
They don’t end as paupers;

Lots of folk live up lanes
With fires in a bucket,
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines-
They seem to like it.

Their nippers have got bare feet,
Their unspeakable wives
Are skinny as whippets – and yet
No one actually _starves_.

Ah, were I courageous enough
To shout, Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff
That dreams are made on:

For something sufficiently toad-like
Squats in me, too;
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
And cold as snow,

And will never allow me to blarney
My way of getting
The fame and the girl and the money
All at one sitting.

I don’t say, one bodies the other
One’s spiritual truth;
But I do say it’s hard to lose either,
When you have both.


 I don’t like to leave this weeks post without something a bit more lighthearted so I’m including a few photos I took when I was in town today –

Was he the gateman do you think??


Honestly put some people in front of a camera !!

But it was all in a good cause 🙂


That’s it for this week “Recovering nicely thankyou very much Saturday Girl” signing off


You can see lots of photos on my other blog Helen’s Photomania here