The College recently trained some Women’s Voices with particular health experiences to become media lay spokespeople. Diane Danzebrink talks about why she got involved as a spokesperson around menopause.
I am 49 years old and work as a therapeutic coach (coach/counsellor) in private practice. Four years ago I had total hysterectomy, I had severe endometriosis, adenomyosis, a large fibroid and suspected ovarian cancer. Fortunately post op tests proved negative so I breathed a large sigh of relief and set about getting well and fit as quickly as possible. I was offered no follow up appointment with my gynaecologist and told to visit my GP to talk about HRT.
I had already decided against HRT as I believed it was all manufactured using equine oestrogen (pregnant mares urine). At my appointment there was no explanation of possible choices so I left unaware of any other options. I decided to try a natural approach and visited a private clinic specialising in menopause, I was prescribed several herbal supplements and for a few months all seemed to be going well until I fell mentally and emotionally off of a cliff. I sank hard and fast into a very dark place and became almost non-functioning.
Were it not for the love and support of my family and friends I truly believe that I would not still be here able to write this to you now. Not once did any medical professional take the time to explain the possible mental and emotional side effects of complete oestrogen exhaustion. In desperation my husband took me back to see the doctor and only then as I sat sobbing in her office did she tell me that there was an alternative to the equine oestrogen in the shape of plant based bio identical oestrogen. If that information had been made available to me in hospital or at my first GP appointment the trauma that I had experienced could have been avoided. I remember when feeling at my lowest telling my husband that if I ever felt like me again that I would use my experience to help other women and those who love them.
In 2014 I attended the BMS menopause foundations course to improve my knowledge. I have now written about my experience for magazines and, having volunteered as a lay spokesperson on menopause for the RCOG, have recently appeared on both TV and radio. Recently I was invited along to a media training day by the RCOG and met with five outstanding and passionate women who have chosen to speak publicly about their own experiences. Each of us has a very different story to tell but all are equally important. I sincerely hope that by each of us sharing our stories it will help to improve the standards of care, promote understanding amongst healthcare professionals and the wider public and most of all let women know that whatever challenges they face they are not alone.
How we plan to use media lay spokespeople in our work
Our aim is to promote the RCOG as the premier advocate and the ‘go to’ source of advice and information for media wanting independent and expert comment on women’s reproductive health, pregnancy and childbirth matters and gynaecology.
We have embarked on a new initiative to build a repository of stories from women covering a wide range of women’s health issues to complement our media work. This could include anything from Diane talking about her experience of the menopause to a woman who experienced trauma during birth or a woman who survived cervical cancer. Women are our expert contributors and by offering a human angle to a media story, the chances of impact are much greater and audiences can really identify with real life experiences.
We’re hugely grateful to Diane and our other media lay spokespeople for getting involved. If you are interested in speaking about your experience of a women’s health issue, please send us an email telling us a little bit about yourself and we will be in touch.