Tertangala

A special kind of card this Christmas.

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She’s only a year older than me, and already, she’s been through and done so much.

Caitlin Bush is a 21-year-old from Unanderra, and this Christmas, she’s doing something beautiful—she’s writing heart-felt and meaningful cards, and sending them to those who are struggling; particularly with their own mental health. To the average person, this may not seem like much. But to someone who is suffering and alone, it can mean the world.

“I know first-hand how lonely and hard Christmas can be, especially if you are alone or have a broken family,” Ms Bush said.

“It really hits home at Christmas, so I thought I could try and help in any way. I wanted to make others know they’re not the only ones, and people do care.”

“If anyone would like some extra Christmas cheer this year or knows someone who’s suffering. Let me know, everyone deserves something at Christmas even if it’s just a card.” -The Silent Sufferers page.

While this is her first Christmas card run, Ms Bush knows it most definitely won’t be her last. The response to her campaign has been “amazing”, with over 200 hand-written cards already sent out—and this is all coming from Ms Bush’s back pocket.

“It’s great to know someone is thinking of you. Getting even just a simple thing like that [card] can make your day, week or even the whole Christmas month worth it,” one card receiver said.

Ms Bush said she has been called a “Christmas Angel” by some, a title she modestly turns down.

“[I’m] just a girl trying to make a difference,” she said.

Ms Bush also began a Facebook page, the Silent Sufferers, a few months ago in order to let people know they’re not alone. Ms Bush says she was sick of the judgement, alienation and the lack of understanding of what people with mental health issues go through. She intends to raise awareness, as well as provide support to those who are suffering.

Image via Facebook.

“Honestly, I just help people know they’re not alone, no matter how bad it seems,” she said.

Ms Bush has posted her own struggles on the Facebook page, with one particular video gaining over 80,000 views. She said the video’s intent was to urge people to consider their actions, and support those around them.

“If mental health wasn’t swept under the rug so much, people might be able to understand it instead of running from it.”

“If you see someone who looks like they need help, ask! Say hello to the random that sits at the back of the class or the bus, hiding themselves.”

“If people just took the time to dig a little deeper and look around, [they’d see] everyone is fighting a battle.”

If you wish to request a card, please private message the Silent Sufferers Facebook Page.

This post originally appeared on the Tertangala (written by me) , and has been republished with full permission.

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Let’s Talk About Vaginas

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No, but seriously; let’s. We really don’t talk about them enough—especially in a non-sexual context. The word feels strange to write, and even stranger to say out loud. Even my phone corrects “vagina” to “cagina”, as if an inanimate object could also feel awkward. Well, that taboo ends here! This is an important issue that could save your life—and a lot of young women really don’t have a clue about it. Now that is awkward.

Okay, brace yourselves, ladies (and any men who were unknowingly lured into reading this through the word “vagina”) here it comes: pap smears. What a terrible name. Smear. Smear. They really don’t make it sound appealing, do they? But in all honesty, It’s not that bad. The procedure takes probably less than thirty seconds in all, and it doesn’t hurt even slightly.

You can get a pap smear by booking in an appointment with your doctor, or at a women’s health clinic. Basically, they take you into a private room, just like any other doctor’s visit, and ask you to remove your underwear and lie on an examination bed. This bit is rather awkward, but remember: they are trained professionals and have probably seen thousands of vaginas in their time. They use a hard plastic tool called a speculum (not to be confused with a spatula) in order for them to see your cervix. From there, they take a quick sample of the cells and send them away for testing. And then you’re done!

Now, I would definitely recommend seeing a female doctor—at least for your first time. It’s much less awkward. My usual doctor is male, and I’m also friends with his daughter. The vagina jokes he made certainly didn’t make me feel more comfortable. The female doctor I sought out, however, was kind and made general conversation and even gave me some information for this article.

So, what the Pap smear actually does is test for any abnormalities in the cells around your cervix which can eventually lead to cervical cancer, as well as testing for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is present in 99.7% of cervical cancer cases. HPV, which is an infection of the skin around think, moist linings of the body (like the nose, mouth, throat and genital) results from close skin contact, isn’t something to be overly concerned about: 4 out of 5 people will have it in their lives, mostly with no symptoms. Your body will usually clear it naturally in 1-2 years, but in some cases, it can stay longer and lead to cervical cancer.

According to the Cancer Council, about 1 in 10 Pap smears reveal abnormalities, though less than 1% of these abnormalities lead to cervical cancer. Even so, all women, regardless of age, sexual orientation or number of partners, should be tested every two years from the ages of 18-70 (or younger,  depending on what age she became sexually active).

In 2017, based on recommendations from the Medical Services Advisory Committee, the Australian Government will make some changes to the Pap test. Women aged between 25 and 74 will undertake a HPV test every five years, which may also include various other tests. These changes are estimated to reduce the number of cancer cases by a further 15%. Hooray!

However, until then, Pap tests are absolutely necessary. Soldier through that awkwardness, and it could potentially save your life! Eighty per cent of women who develop cervical cancer had not had regular check-ups. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers with a simple test—these tests have halved the mortality rate. Can you really ignore that?

Listen to your vagina, and don’t be afraid to talk about any problems you may have, no matter how seemingly miniscule. Don’t become another statistic because you were too embarrassed to ask. After all, happy vagina, happy life. Preach it, ladies!

Guess who’s back?

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So, I have been super slack with this blogging thing for about a year. But have no fear! I am back!

So basically, this will be articles i’ve written for the University of Wollongong website (and magazine), as well as assessments and other opinion pieces. If you’re reading this, you’re awesome. I will strive to make this a fairly entertaining and informing blog! Stay tuned!

ItBeginsWithZ 2.0!