Miriam’s Musings

Has breast cancer become our new epidemic?

You’ll all be aware that, just two weeks ago, Sarah Harding (39), a member of pop group Girls Aloud, sadly passed away from breast cancer. This beautiful woman’s death has sent shockwaves through most women for two reasons. One, she was so young and two, she appears to have delayed seeking treatment, admitting to using the Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns as “an excuse not to face up to the fact that something was very wrong”.

Sarah’s statement is heartbreaking because it tells me that this poor young woman may have blamed herself for her terminal illness; and that shouldn’t be the case. Sarah, like anyone who is diagnosed with cancer, got ill because she was extremely unfortunate; she is not to blame for her diagnosis or her illness, nor is she at fault for using an excuse like the Covid restrictions – or any excuse for that matter – to ignore the warning signs.

However, as one in nine women will develop breast cancer in the course of their lifetime, as 3,700 new cases are diagnosed annually in Ireland, and as 724 women lose their lives each year as a result of this disease, I worry if perhaps breast cancer has become Ireland’s new epidemic. For that reason, I’m really glad an organisation like Breast Cancer Ireland is providing health information talks via their ‘TY Schools Awareness Programme’ because it’s important that young girls are aware of what is ‘normal’ for them and what isn’t.

I don’t know about you readers, but the above statistics frighten the life out of me, and, as next month (October) is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I felt it was timely to address the overall issue of checking our breasts and attending our screening appointments when offered them.

With that in mind, and, as someone who, due to the restrictions imposed on services regarding Covid, is now a year overdue for my own mammogram, (something which I dread attending, but do so because it’s vitally important), can I remind all Roscommon women reading this to do the following: For just five minutes today, stop fussing over that child; stop cooking that dinner and stop making that pot of tea for someone else and please instead, do something crucially important for yourself and go check your breasts.

Go to your bedroom/bathroom and, if you think a child, a dog or a partner is going to interrupt you, then lock that door behind you. Remember, in order for you to do this properly you need no interruptions or distractions; so don’t even bring in your phone. Then, standing in front of your mirror, take off the bra and look, really take a long hard look at those boobs…and feel them.

Familiarise yourself with their size, their shape, and their texture, and, thinking about the last time you had a look, (probably ages ago), see if you can spot any unusual changes that may have occurred in the meantime.

I’ve got no medical training whatsoever, I mean, you certainly can’t call a certificate in first aid as being ‘medically trained’, however, based on instructions I’ve read on www.cancer.ie I carry out a weekly check on my own breasts. That means, if I can do it, so can you!

My DIY ‘breast check’ usually happens after a shower and after I’ve managed to shoo the dogs out of the bathroom. I cannot remember when I last managed to shower or even go to the toilet in peace without doing it in front of an audience of four-legged fur babies…but I digress. The fact is ladies, you too should be making time for yourselves to carry out your own checks; and, if you spot any changes whatsoever, don’t panic, but do ring your doctor and book an appointment, all the time remembering that not all lumps/changes are cancerous.

I have no affiliation or association with Breast Cancer Ireland; nor do I know if their education awareness programmes are countrywide, I just happened across them in the course of my research. However, if any TY teachers reading this wish to find out about their ‘complimentary’ services, their website provides an email and a contact number which are: smcgregor@bciresearch.ie or phone 01-533 7570. It might be worth giving them a call; I’m sure all students will benefit from having a bit of extra knowledge regarding their health and wellbeing; one that could potentially save their lives.

In addition, if you’re a lady of a certain age, log onto www2.hse.ie/services and click on the check, update or join the register link to make sure you’re in the breast screening system; and, when the invitation comes for you to have a mammogram, make sure you keep it.


Why are Irish women still being denied free contraception?

Well done to the French government, who, in their bid to tackle a decline in the use of contraception, (possibly due to the high cost), have, as of next year, decided to offer free contraception to its young women under the age of 25. This move will include a visit to a healthcare professional, birth control pills and intrauterine devices etc., so, Vive la France!

With that in mind, I’m wondering why this initiative hasn’t been introduced here. I mean, the Government has been banging on about it for long enough yet, despite making commitments around the time of the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to provide abortion services free to women, they’ve yet to roll out free and fully available access to contraception.

Let me repeat that…the State provides free abortions, but not free pregnancy preventative measures; meaning at this rate Irish women will never have any control over our reproductive rights; and that ladies, in a so-called progressive society, is making an absolute mockery of our gender!

Now folks, (and taxpayers), I do know that providing this service won’t come cheap, indeed it’ll probably cost us all over €20 million, and I’m sure Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will wonder how he’ll fund such a scheme.

Well Stephen, if your predecessors hadn’t dwindled €54 million of our money on 7,500 stupid e-voting machines, then sold them for scrap at a miserable €9.30 each, you’d be able to properly provide for Irish women’s health.

In addition, if certain numpties hadn’t shelled out €808,000 on a ‘state-of-the-art’ printer, then wasted over €230,000 to get it into the Oireachtas because some dimwit took the wrong measurements, you might have a little stash set by to provide free birth control services for women.

I mean, how long is it going take for our Government to understand that the majority of Mná na hÉireann would rather prevent a crisis pregnancy as opposed to having to devastatingly and heartbreakingly end it?


Leo: Stop overlooking Roscommon – and start promoting us!

Apart from the pathetic spin peddled by Leo Varadkar at the Fine Gael party knees-up, sorry ‘think-in’ where, referring to ‘Zapponegate’ he insisted, “we will come out of here united” I noted that the Tánaiste made a point of name-checking Trim Castle.

Don’t get me wrong, Trim Castle is beautiful and so is County Meath where it’s located. However Leo, next time you’re spending our money on inviting (at least) 55 elected members to attend a three-day knees-up, sorry, event in a four-star hotel, why not consider coming to County Roscommon? We’ve got castles, we’ve got historical sites, we’ve got stately homes, we’ve got historic towns, we’ve got luxurious four-star hotels, and you know what…we’ve got wonderful people; people who, when it comes to your Government loosening its purse strings, are fed up being continuously neglected, disregarded and overlooked!