After just three months the number of women who have watched my Facebook Live films on reclaiming wellbeing at midlife has passed the one million mark. This confirms without doubt that huge numbers of women are desperately searching for solutions to get out of hormone hell at peri-menopause and menopause.
I find it amazing that no-one has truly quantified the cost of menopause on relationships, productivity or self-esteem, not to mention the amount of money spent on over the counter remedies that in many cases fail to provide relief from often severe symptoms that leave millions of women feeling like they have been possessed by an alien.
Overwhelmed by thermal surges by day and by night, dripping with perspiration, dreading another night of insomnia, many women also suffer with severe panic attacks and palpitations, aches and pains that stop them in their tracks at this life stage. Feeling energetic, being pleased with their reflection and having an appetite for sex often seems like a dim and distant memory.
Every day in my Facebook Group Natural Menopause – Making the Midlife Switch I hear horror stories from women who don’t feel like they are being taken seriously by their doctor or given the support they need at home or in the workplace.
Blinded by their desperation for help, many constantly search for workable self-help remedies, but are not armed with sufficient knowledge to distinguish which products are likely to deliver what their attractive packs promise. Far too many over the counter products are put together with profit in mind rather than efficacy or safety and are neither standardised nor been through any clinical trials. Women consequently find themselves regularly spending money without seeing the benefits; ending up despondent and afraid.
There is clearly a need for clarity, interpretation of the wealth of medical publications on the subject and much more help and support from family members and work colleagues.
In order to quantify the hidden cost of menopause I have put together a survey in the hopes that the results will highlight the huge need for change. As a token of my appreciation to women for completing the Hidden Cost of Menopause survey I have a free gift for the. A magazine style collection of phytoestrogen rich recipes will arrive in their inbox.
When I told my husband “I turned down five men today”, he looked at me sideways. At first he thought I was joking, but it was true. And my dirty little secret is that it’s not the first time; it happens almost every day!
Since opening the doors of my new Facebook Group less than three months ago, inviting women to journey with me to make their Midlife Switch, I have not only attracted over 5000 female members, but it has sparked interest amongst men. Whilst the women are struggling with the nightmarish symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause, believing they have been possessed by an alien, their husbands and partners are understandably feeling bewildered by the challenging behaviour and lack of spark. Sex drive is one of the first things to leave the building during menopause because women default to what I call ‘Economy Mode’ due to low levels of nutrients and diminished circulating oestrogen; it follows that men might also be interested in finding a solution.
Overwhelmed by thermal surges by day and by night, dripping with perspiration, dreading another night of insomnia, many women at the time of the menopause are also suffering with severe panic attacks and palpitations, aches and pains that stop them in their tracks as well as fatigue making them feel like they have been hit by a train.
If my experience in the last three months is anything to go by, women don’t have to have reached fifty before this onslaught. There are millions of women around the world who are completely taken by surprise and under prepared for their midlife experience. In that short time, my Facebook Live films have been viewed by over three-quarters of a million women, and clearly some men. They are searching for solutions as all that seems to be on offer at their doctor’s surgery is hormone treatment or antidepressants; neither of which are viable long term propositions for most women.
Having helped tens of thousands of women successfully overcome their symptoms for more than 25 years without using drugs or hormones, I decided to call time to the suffering. A little knowledge goes a long way. So my new mission is to
raise awareness about the many scientifically based tools that can be implemented at midlife enabling women to reclaim their wellbeing and find the person both they and their partner thought had evaporated.
With my members in mind I put together a magazine style workbook ‘Natural Menopause – Making the Midlife Switch’ and edited my film Get Fit for Midlife. I’ve begun taking a group of members on their recovery journey using both video and online workshops. The members voted for the group to remain women only; but by giving them back the girl they married it seems there is more than one way to put a smile back on men’s faces.
It’s a well kept secret that millions of women are feeling isolated and scared at the time of the perimenopause and perimenopause. There is an overwhelming consensus among them that menopause signals the end of life as they knew it; feeling like an alien has taken possession of their mind and body. It seems that there are millions of ‘sisters’ around the world walking around in the middle of the night, unable to sleep and experiencing similar symptoms simultaneously. There are in excess of 13 million women going through the menopause in the UK and by the year 2020 it is estimated that there will be 50 million in the US alone. Almost three-quarters of women report symptoms of hot flushes or night sweats and often experience them for a decade or longer unless they learn how to switch them off.
It makes me feel angry and frustrated that women are left to suffer as I know from twenty-five years of clinical experience that there are workable researched based tools available to overcome symptoms completely. As a result, I felt called to tell women everywhere that they no longer need to suffer at this life stage, but instead they can learn how to reclaim their wellbeing naturally.
Nine weeks ago I set up the Facebook Group Midlife Switch so there would be a place where women would could get quality information and support. Since then 600,000 women have watched my Facebook Live films talking about overcoming symptoms naturally at midlife and I have been inundated with horror stories from almost 4000 women going through the perimenopause and menopause. Many of them are at their wits end, unable to sleep, dripping from perspiration, aching from head to toe, with very low energy levels, dried out sore vaginal tissue, zero libido and feeling like they are ninety instead of forty or fifty something.
It seems completely unfair to me that women of a certain age are heading for misery unless they are armed with sufficient knowledge to do a U turn. The information and tools to parachute out of the dark hole and reclaim all things lost, including libido, self-esteem and your waistline, is out there. Doctors and nurses are not armed with sufficient knowledge to advise on anything much other than HRT or antidepressants; neither of which are ideal or optimum for the long-term. Added to that, conflicting advice and information overload on the World Wide Web often make it incredibly difficult to know where to start, and who to believe.
I often ask myself the question why women don’t expect more help as they claw their way through the perimenopause and menopause. Why is it that so many of us accept midlife to be the end of life as they knew it and assume it’s all part of being a woman? It’s a time when huge numbers of women seem to be mourning the loss of themselves. Instead of all things familiar, normality is replaced by fear, despair and a dread of seeing the eyes and shape of a stranger looking back from the reflection in the mirror. It can be very frightening and incredibly isolating; what happens to us is sometimes even too personal to discuss with our best friends.
In so many areas of life women are smart, savvy, straight talking problem solvers, but when it comes to their own health, mainly because of inadequate knowledge, they seem to roll over and become victims of their life stage.
The programme pioneered by my team at the Natural Health Advisory Service has helped literally tens of thousands of women all over the world. I can put my hand on my heart and say there is no need to suffer alone or to be conned into taking something that isn’t what it says on the packet. Women can so easily overcome their debilitating symptoms at the time of the menopause and reclaim their wellbeing.
Having been so moved by their suffering, I am gearing up to take thousands of menopausal women on a recovery journey to reclaim their wellbeing. I worked around the clock to finish my new book Beat Menopause the Natural Way which is accompanied by Get Fit for Midlife, a film that outlines how to implement the programme. I am now also providing ninety- minute workshops called 3 Mammoth Myths at Midlife, so that women can find out how to overcome their debilitating symptoms without having to resort to either hormones or drugs.
If you happen to be one of those women who live in dread of certain aspects of your midlife journey, you should know that I have observed the majority of patients who have been through our programme regain their zest for life, get back into good physical shape with improved self-esteem, become symptom free and often end up feeling better about themselves than they can ever remember.
There is simply no need to feel bad when you can simply feel so good. Midlife Switch is already making a huge difference to women’s lives. For a start they no longer feel isolated or like they are going mad and that counts for a great deal. You are most welcome to join us as I take Midlife Switch members on a journey to overcome their symptoms and reclaim their wellbeing.
Five weeks ago I began an inadvertent journey which has turned out to be a most sobering experience, filling me with anger, frustration and concern. It’s not that I’ve made a new discovery as I’ve been advising women with both PMS and menopause symptoms all over the world for over 25 years.
It’s more that I have been reminded that women are being left to fend for themselves at midlife, or whenever peri-menopause or menopause hits following a hysterectomy. They feel isolated and very scared by invasive symptoms which keep them up much of the night dripping with sweat, suffering insomnia as a result, feeling angry, tearful, like they are going mad and a shadow of their former selves.
Some have tried HRT for a number of years and then been taken off it by their doctors as it’s no longer regarded as a long term treatment. Others have been given a variety of antidepressants that sometimes help, but often don’t. When they don’t respond to those treatments, many doctors seem to run out of tools and suggest that suffering this way at midlife is all part of being a woman.
I had been intending to establish a virtual ‘go to’ community where women could access reliable information, get their questions answered, meet experts and each other as my next project in 2017.
However, I went on a course to learn how to broadcast live on Facebook five weeks ago and on that day realised that I could get the community started as a Facebook group which I called Midlife Switch. Five weeks on, my Facebook live films have been viewed by just short of 110,000 women and over 750 distraught women have joined my group sharing their harrowing, life stopping stories with me and each other.
I’m now spending first thing in the morning before my day begins and last thing at night, whilst I’m still coherent, answering questions and consoling women who have largely been abandoned by their doctors, genuinely believing there is no hope. These women are in their 40’s and 50’s, which is only half-way house for many of us these days as we have the potential to live so much longer than in years gone by.
I’ve picked out a few comments to illustrate the desperation I’m reading about every day:
A dental nurse of 35 years who says “I drip with sweat until I have to fully change clothes. I had to give up work as I was dripping on the patients”.
“I am a prisoner of my home, dare not go to a department store for more than a couple of minutes. I’ve had so many illnesses all my life and fought them, this has me beat and after 4 years I see no light”.
‘I feel like I’m losing my mind, massive memory loss, on the brink of tears constantly”.
“I’m feeling so bloody ill and tired and my bones constantly ache”.
“My symptoms are horrendous, I sleep 3 hours a night, am moody and emotional”.
‘I’m feeling like my life has come to an end’.
They are asking questions like where do we get the answers, I’m so disillusioned, my GP is of no help?
I was relating my recent experience to a colleague at the weekend and I heard myself say to her that apart from suffering deeply with uncontrolled symptoms, “these women are almost grieving the loss of themselves”.
As I said it, I shivered, because that’s actually what’s happening. The women who are left to fend for themselves at midlife, often with the most horrendous symptoms, cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel. Instead they feel like life as they knew it is over. That strikes me as completely tragic, when I know from my many years of helping women through menopause using a natural approach, which is based on published medical science, that the majority of the symptoms these women are suffering can be controlled completely in a matter of months without resorting to drugs or hormones.
Plus, at the same time as learning to manage their menopause symptoms, they come to know how to prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, the bone thinning disease, and dementia in the longer term so that they can embrace the additional years many of them are blessed with, in good health.
It makes me ask myself questions like ‘Why does the medical profession feel it’s okay to give up on women at midlife?’ ‘How can we as a society have been so blind to this extreme and widespread suffering which is affecting millions of women all around the world every day and night?’ ‘What emergency measures and strategies can be implemented to arm women with sufficient science based knowledge to help women to reclaim their wellbeing at this life stage’.
I’m not sure of all the answers yet, especially as most doctors only are able to provide 10 minute appointments which wouldn’t allow them time to make a proper assessment, let alone give advice. I do know that there needs to be major change. Practice nurses at least need to be tooled up and educated about the published research that exists showing so that women no longer need suffer in this way at midlife, and dedicated clinics need to exist. At a time when the NHS is in shreds I am not at all confident that this is likely to happen sadly.
I can hardly believe that it’s almost the end of another year. This one has flown and been packed full of events I will personally never forget. It’s ending on a very exciting note for me and I’m so pleased to be able to share it with you.
Now that my work with the Angelus Foundation has come to an end, I am once again focussing on important women’s health issues. I am deeply concerned and saddened that, seven years on, women are still largely left to fend for themselves when it comes to PMS and Menopause, unless they opt for drugs or hormones; neither of which are long term solutions in any scientific sense. Many women are left clinging on by their fingernails, feeling frightened and vulnerable, almost a shadow of their former selves. Some admit to feeling suicidal, others depressed, exhausted, anxious, panicked and utterly isolated with both their self-esteem and libido at rock bottom.
The hot flushes and night sweats at menopause can be completely overwhelming and a cause of ongoing insomnia and extreme anxiety. The worst thing is that the majority of women have little idea that things can get better, let alone the possibility that they can overcome their symptoms with natural means in a matter of months. Due to my deep frustration and sense of complete injustice, my mission in the next few years is to create a ‘go to’ platform where women can get trustworthy and scientifically based information that will enable them to overcome symptoms of PMS and Menopause. They will meet experts, get their questions answered, and meet and support each other rather than being left to fend for themselves. I went on a course to learn how to do Facebook Live broadcasts four weeks ago and in doing so realised that I could create communities within Facebook now, rather than having to wait, and through that medium bring help, hope and relief to women everywhere.
New Facebook community for perimenopause, menopause and beyond…
Four weeks ago I set up the Midlife Switch group on Facebook and I’ve made half a dozen short films so far which have been viewed by over 40,000 people in that short period of time with very little promotion! Through Midlife Switch I can communicate to women everywhere and answer their questions. I can also invite medical and inspirational experts to be interviewed on film so that the community can benefit from their wisdom too. In addition, women get to meet and support each other. I’m going to be sharing one chapter of my new book Beat Menopause the Natural Way each week in the New Year and will be talking more about that particular aspect of menopause on film and with other experts. All those women from perimenopause through to post-menopause are most welcome to join the community as the content will be a constant source of inspiration.
New Facebook community for PMS suffers and those with period problems…
No need to feel left out if PMS and other period related problems are plaguing you. In the last few days I have set up the Facebook group No More PMS, based on the successful programme that my team pioneered at the Women’s Nutritional Advisory Service. It will provide sound self-help information for women so they come to understand that they don’t need to suffer with PMS, but instead can overcome their symptoms naturally. Over 94 per cent of women have become symptom free within four months of being on our programme over the years, no matter how severe their symptoms were to begin with.
In the coming weeks and months I will be adding regular content, broadcasting live and interviewing other experts that have useful and effective tools and information to share to help bring an end to suffering. If this is your life stage and that of your friends then please come and join the group. At the same time as getting further insights into managing your symptoms and reclaiming your wellbeing, you will have the added bonus of meeting each other so that you don’t feel isolated.
In addition to my focus on the two new groups, I’m finishing my new book Beat Menopause the Natural Way which will be available in January 2017 and working on courses that will be launched in the first few months of the New Year. I have my new website going live in the next few days which I’m also very excited about. There will be new free downloads and webinars with myself and other experts, so come by, sign up for the newsletter and book your seats for webinars in advance.
On the day when we wake up to discover that #Donald Trump won the presidential election in the USA and that #Marijuana is being legalised in multiple US States, coupled with the aftermath of #Brexit, it’s understandable that many of us feel downhearted and experience fear. News from around the world, constantly filled with reports about people attacking others physically as well as verbally, often seems surreal; even unbelievable. Open prejudice and violence, which causes injury and even death, are painful to witness for those of us who choose love over hate.
Changes like Brexit and news about the presidential election in the USA are beyond the common man and woman’s control. Likewise, terrorist attacks, executed by extremists who have been brainwashed to wage war on others with the intention to cause widespread fear and panic are abhorrent. The majority of us watch on, horrified by events beyond our control because it makes us feel powerless.
As a professional problem solver, until recently, I found the powerlessness beyond frustrating, because I couldn’t see a way for good to triumph over evil. I experienced huge relief when a light went on in my head as I considered how different life on earth would be if we focus on that which is within our control. We should concentrate on mindfully loving more, hating less and doing random acts of kindness for each other, because we can. Whilst that may seem a naïve concept, my attention remains with it. It made me wonder if the conscious ones amongst us could band together with love on the agenda, no matter what religion, and turn the tide on hate and our backs on fear. It also reminded me about an idea I had to set up a Random Acts of Kindness day following the tragic death of my 21 year old daughter.
It’s admittedly a huge challenge, and, some might say not even possible, but wouldn’t it make those of us who choose love over hate to feel so much better? At least we would be actively doing something positive and rewarding, resulting in raised endorphin and serotonin levels, the feel good hormones. Most of us have the ability to change the way we feel and make a difference to the lives of our family, friends and work colleagues as well as our immediate environment. Imagine the ripple effect that will be felt around the world as a result.
Recognising that making this a global initiative needs to be led by a group of change makers, I made a mental note to speak to my wise friend Judy Piatkus, who several years ago set up a movement called Conscious Café, giving people the opportunity to engage in conscious conversations with likeminded others focussing on love and goodness.
Contacting Judy was on my ‘to do’ list on the day I received the invitation to the conference she is organising, in London on 27th November, entitled ‘Raising the Vibration of Love’. Not too surprisingly, Judy has proactively organised a whole day event bringing together leading opinion leaders, healers, authors and respected senior executives to explore ways of reducing fear and increasing the expression of love in our lives, with a common goal of making the world a better place. I bought a ticket in a heart beat as it feels like a group I want to be part of.
If you feel similarly about making a difference, and you can get to London, why not come and join us? Let me know if you decide to buy a ticket so that we can connect on that special day. If you are in a different geographic location, you can still focus on saying no to fear and yes to love and kindness. Instead of resisting change and that which you can’t control, colour your world and immediate environment daily with good deeds, love and gratitude for all that we do have in our lives. We will ride the changes together feeling like we are each truly making a difference to the world on every day of our lives.
Trust: believing in possibilities and good outcomes
Trust is a small word but whether we trust, and who we choose to trust, has huge implications in our lives. When we talk about trust most of us think about building or placing trust in others, believing that another person is good, reliable and honest. We don’t often focus on trusting ourselves and our vision for the future. Life often becomes pressured, intense, even demanding and throws all manner of challenges at us that sometimes prove to be all consuming. It’s easy to lose sight and sense of feeling centred and forget how just powerful we actually are. I am no exception, but I have an interesting and heart-warming tale to share.
For many years of my life I was like a hamster on a wheel. Don’t get me wrong, I felt privileged to have four beautiful children and to spend my life really making a positive difference to the lives of others through my work at the Natural Health Advisory Service. Tens of thousands of women had improved hormone health, higher self-esteem, better relationships and live in the light instead of the dark as a result of my work. I’m proud of that.
Just after the turn of the century, in October 2000, our house flooded and eventually, because of the extensive damage, had to be demolished. Following a three-year legal battle over the rebuilding of the house, my marriage crumbled and a few years later, in April 2009, our 21 year-old daughter passed away after being given a legal high. Life went from manageable, to beyond tough during that difficult decade. Being in the moment became key and taking one day at a time was as much as I could manage.
In the mid-nineties I was given a book by a friend in South Africa entitled Visioning Into the 21st Century which I found fascinating. I was amazed to discover many case reports of people visioning away illnesses like cancer without any trace. I particularly remember the story of a professional baseball team in the US who divided into three groups for 6 weeks. One group continued to train, one visioned they trained, whilst the final group remained inactive. The fitness tests that followed showed that the group who visioned they trained were as fit as those who had actually been training. The story of a lonely old lady who, following the death of her husband, had managed to vision a new partner made me smile and housed itself in the archives of my mind.
As my interest was kindled I began reading other books on the subject including Visioning – 10 Steps to Visioning the Life of Your Dreams by, the Californian Art Therapist, Dr Lucia Capacchione. I got to meet her whilst she was in London and the following year spend a week in Cambria, in the Pine Forest in California on one of her week long workshops. I absorbed the materials like ink on blotting paper and went on to successfully use her system of healing and visioning with many of my patients.
I’d made a visioning board about the house of my dreams by coincidence just prior to the flood. The house on my board was quite like the fabulous houses we see in magazines like ‘House & Garden’ with massive rooms, huge windows letting in the sunlight, high ceilings and large open fireplaces. You can’t imagine how spooked I felt when we moved into an incredibly similar house six weeks after the flood. Many of the pictures on my visioning board could have passed for photos of the rooms in our newly rented house, which by coincidence, was the only house for rent in the area large enough to house our family.
When my marriage fell apart in 2004 and I moved on with my two youngest children, every moment of each day was taken up by caring for them, looking after my patients and survival. As the children grew older and became more independent I began to see a light at the end of the tunnel. By that time, I had my own TV show, The Really Useful Health Show and life once again felt enjoyable. That is until my youngest daughter, Hester, tragically passed away. At that point I could easily have fallen into a black pit never to emerge into the light.
Together with my broken heart I did manage to climb out of the hole and started a campaign, through the Angelus Foundation, which I set up in memory of Hester, to raise awareness of the dangers of legal highs, reduce their demand and ultimately the supply in order to save other young lives. It took seven years to get the Government to introduce the Psychoactive Substance Bill. I threw myself body and soul into campaigning, partly to blot out the all-consuming grief, often working every waking hour seven days a week.
Several years down the line an old friend reminded me that I needed to ease up, at least re-establish the luxury of having weekends off and make time to socialise. Being totally off the social map I decided to register on a number of dating websites and let the fun begin. Whilst the anticipation of each new date possibly being the man of my dreams was fun, the rest was mainly time consuming and fruitless. My frustration drew me back to create a new vision board, this time focussing on how life would feel with the man of my dreams.
The finished board was really a heavenly sight to behold, filled with images of life with a tall, dark, loving and handsome man. As place holders for the man I was searching for I used shots of the actors Antonio Banderas, and Tom Conti who I met shortly after at a cocktail party. He looked a bit worried when I told him I had a photo of him on my bedroom wall but he relaxed and smiled when I told him that he shared the platform with others. I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to tell him had I not had a couple of glasses of wine!
According to experts, one of the ways to make the vision board become reality is to gaze at it several times each day and vision yourself living it. I figured it could be time well invested and, if ‘Prince Charming’ didn’t fall into my life, I would have at least spent many pleasant hours distracted by the contemplation of what life could be like with him in it. As I’ve always dreamed of living, for at least the winter months, in a warmer climate, my daily vision included walking along a beautiful sandy beach, with my feet in the surf, hand in hand with my gorgeous man, deep in conversation and wonder. This dreamlike state became part of my daily routine; always a welcome break from reality. It went on for a few years, by which time I felt certain that I would recognise him instantly.
Through a series of unforeseen circumstances, which included more dating disappointments, I found myself with a ticket to Florida and, as well as meetings to attend, agreed to meet up with some old friends also holidaying in the area after Christmas. On the evening of 21st December 2012, an idea lit up in my head like a flame of a candle. I felt drawn to look to see if there was anyone online in Florida. I opened my computer and spent time browsing. I wrote notes to two potentially interesting prospects and then went to bed. By the following morning I had a reply in my inbox from the man who sounded the most interesting of and he suggested we speak. We spoke on the phone for an hour that afternoon. His name was Ben and we seemed to have similar outlooks and much in common. He must have thought so too as he invited me to have dinner with him on New Year’s Eve.
What then followed still seems completely surreal. I only needed one date to know that my search was over. When I entered the reception of my hotel to meet Ben I first saw him from behind. It was a good look; he was tall and clothed in a fresh white shirt and dark pants. As he spun around to greet me, I felt totally spooked, as he was the image of the man I visioned walking on the beach with. It was a challenge to stay centred and not look like I was blown away. He took my hand as we walked out of the reception. Normally touch at this early stage would feel like an invasion of my personal space, but instead it felt like I was holding the hand of a very old friend. We began talking and never stopped until midnight, by which time we were in a park listening to live music, and he leaned in to kiss me and wish me a Happy New Year.
He asked to see me the next day. Uncannily he lived on a gorgeous beach and we did end up walking hand in hand in the weeks that followed, totally absorbed swapping stories about our lives, hopes and dreams. I began pinching myself each day to make completely sure he wasn’t actually still a figment of my overactive imagination. Thankfully, he seemed grateful to have found me to and we both agreed that it felt like we had known each other forever.
By the time I was due to fly home to London I had agreed to return to Florida weeks later to spend more time with Ben, starting by celebrating his special birthday. My family thought I was deluded if I thought it would turn into a sustainable relationship, but a few months later, when Ben came to England to meet them, they, like me were suitably impressed and, began to hope this might possibly have a happy ending.
As well as being physically appealing Ben is gorgeous on the inside too. He spoils and cares for me like no one ever has before. Nothing seems to be too much trouble for him and he is always looking for little ways to please me, whether it’s with flowers, my favourite food and drinks in the fridge and even ordering stocks of sun screen without parabens and my preferred brand of face wipes and toothpaste. I reciprocate, as I feel certain that good relationships are based on making your partner feel important and special every day of your lives together.
It’s been four years now and I continue to pinch myself each day to ensure it’s real. I felt inspired to write this on the beach. I’m sitting on the warm sand and listening to the waves lapping on the shore. Ben is sitting opposite me reading and has no idea that I’m writing to tell you that I feel incredibly blessed to be living the life of my dreams. He proposed to me last summer, he got down on one knee, and in June this year, in London, just five weeks before my mother passed away after her battle with ovarian cancer, we shared our very special wedding day which couldn’t have been any better if I’d had a magic wand. Each day with Ben feels like a gift. The love and trust between us continues to grow beyond all expectations.
I felt compelled to share my very personal story to remind you dear reader that we are the architects of at least part of the journey through our lives. I truly believe it’s important to have a positive outlook and trust that manifesting your dreams is possible. Simply enjoy living your dream in your imagination believing that on one special day, hopefully in the not too distant future, it will become reality as mine has. Until that time, take one day at a time and mindfully enjoy the process, trusting that you can manifest anything you dare to dream.
They say that life is what happens whilst you are making plans and in my case this year has proved that to be the case. I was storming ahead writing two new books, creatively working to launch an online initiative to help women from midlife to rekindle their wellbeing when I got the news that my mother only had a few months to live. She had been battling with ovarian cancer for the last 30 months, but at the age of 84, and after so bravely sky diving to raise money for new research to detect ovarian cancer in other women earlier than in her own case, earning her the title of Ripcord Rosa, we had to adjust to the fact that we were coming to the end of our time together.
We wanted to make the most of her ‘well’ time and create as many wonderful memories as we could together. So, apart from looking after my patients, I pressed the pause button on my new projects and concentrated on spending time being family focused. I didn’t have a proper wedding the first time around and, as I was engaged to be married this year, I decided to organise our wedding so that my sweet Mama Rosa could be there to experience and enjoy it.
I planned to blog about those days but the roller coaster ride was too tricky to share and, in all honesty, I hardly had time to come up for air. On many days prior to the wedding we thought mum might pass away before the day; even the week before the wedding, which was hugely stressful. However, thanks to Dr Joshua Plaut, a hugely wise and sentient doctor, who, when she could no longer swallow her medication, came up with the bright idea of giving intravenous medication via a driver that fitted into her handbag. The result was that my determined mother was not only able to attend the wedding ceremony, but managed to stay until the very end of the party claiming that being there made all her dreams come true. She even had a two week high after the wedding before she began to go finally down hill.
Our wedding day, 23rd June, was the best day of my life too having found the man of my dreams. Sharing it with family and friends that we hold so dear was beyond joyous. If I had a magic wand it couldn’t have been any better. The ceremony made our guests cry with a mixture of joy and sadness, the wedding breakfast was dinner party standard thanks to our wonderful caterer Philip Small. The party was made even more special by Mitch Winehouse, a friend since my Angelus Foundation days due to our common losses, and his amazing swing band. Plus, our photographer, Simon Crummay, captured this all on treasured film; many of the beyond gorgeous shots included Mama Rosa who actually looked ageless. I am truly grateful.
Ripcord Rosa passed away on 29th July this year. Witnessing her difficult passing made me realise just how hideous ovarian cancer is and how important it is to catch it early before it gets a stronghold in the body. I am so thankful that I listened to my intuition and was brave enough to put everything that seemed important at the time on hold. I missed my deadlines, I missed going to Hawaii to finish a course and to honeymoon, but I gained so much as a being from that wise decision.
If ever I needed to be reminded of how important it is to live in the moment, be grateful and cherish each day it was then. I loved the very special conversations we had as a family and just mum and I. We truly left no stone unturned. When it all got too sad my little granddaughter Marnie, whose first birthday was a week before our wedding, was there to snuggle up to and remind me of new beginnings, as was my wonderful new husband Ben.
Having taken some time to grieve my loss and wallow gratefully in those last shared days, I am now beginning to press the play button in my own life. A new website is in the making and my new Midlife Switch books and programmes will be available at the beginning of the New Year. In the meantime, I will be answering questions on health issues in a series of webinars and continuing to help women clinging on by their finger nails to overcome the debilitating symptoms of PMS and menopause naturally, enabling them to get back in the driving seat to embrace life and relationships in good health.
I will be joined on my new journey by many world class experts who will also be able to answer your questions with a view to enhancing your health. We will be supported by Kim Button, my new assistant who has recently joined the team. Like me, Kim loves to make a difference and looks forward to getting to know my patients and helping to build our new community. If you have questions for the webinars please do email usat firstname.lastname@example.org
For details about consultations, you can contact Kim on +44 (0) 7460 684409 or email. Webinar times will be posted on my existing website whilst the new one is in the making www.maryonstewart.com
My Blog posts and Tweets will begin again next week so stay tuned!
David Cameron’s role as Prime Minister will always heavily be associated with Great Britain leaving Europe. And whilst his critics, rightly or wrongly, have a field day as he hands over the reins at Number 10 to Theresa May, let’s spare a thought for something profoundly good he did that will save untold lives and prevent millions of young people being harmed in the months, years and decades to come.
My journey began in 2009 following the death of my youngest daughter, Hester, a 21 year old medical student, student mentor and cheerleader passed away after being given a substance know as a legal high following an awards dinner. Hester was far from a drug taker. I was completely shocked that as a medical family we knew nothing about these substances known as legal highs, perceived as safe because they were legal, yet capable of claiming a young life.
Hester had been given GBL, otherwise known as paint stripper, by a friend who thought it was safe because it was legal. After she passed away I discovered that the substance she had been given had already been banned for personal consumption in many other countries around the world 4 years earlier. The then Home Secretary in the Labour Government, Jacqui Smith, sat on her hands ignoring the warnings of the expert committees in both Europe and the UK to raise awareness and failed to take any action. I was outraged and wanted an explanation so made an appointment to see her.
Whilst as a family we made some minor inroads with Alan Johnson, who took over from Jacqui Smith the day before we were due to meet, the real traction began when the issue reached the Conservative Party Manifesto in 2010. Thanks to the help of a team of world class experts who came on the Advisory Board of the Angelus Foundation which I set up in memory of Hester, and James Brokenshire, the then Crime Prevention Minister, who steered us through the corridors of Westminster so that our voices were heard loud and clear.
Our starting point was zero awareness across the board, with the exception of key experts, who themselves were grappling with the limited information. I wrote to David Cameron to bring the issue to his attention for many more young people were dying or being robbed of their mental and physical wellbeing. He wrote back with condolences and promised to get his Government to help control the situation.
In the early days under David Cameron’s watch an order was put into place for substances that looked dangerous to be banned quickly. Our celebrations were short lived however, as we came to realize that this was not a solution to the ever escalating problem. For as soon as a ban was in place for a particular substance the chemists, mainly in China, tweaked the molecules and introduced a new substance that same week. By 2014 there were over 100 new substances identified in Europe.
In 2015, after relentless campaigning by the Angelus Foundation, helped greatly by the then Drugs Minister Norman Baker, the Government undertook a full review. The recommendations of the review panel, many of whom were on the Angelus Advisory Board, were everything that Angelus had asked for. With a bit of fancy footwork by Angelus in the following months, after 7 years of relentless campaigning, and
Law changes we achieved in the meantime, we finally got the Psychoactive Substance Bill introduced, which was the first Bill mentioned in the Queens Speech in the summer of 2015.
The new Bill, which became law in May 2016, is a huge win for both the Government and the Angelus team as it means that legal highs are now banned in the UK. As a result of the Psychoactive Substance Bill coming into force over 500 retail outlets closed down, more than 115 websites ceased trading and lots of other initiatives have been triggered across Europe and further afield due to the raised awareness.
And, as a result of the Angelus initiative and the Government taking us seriously, the profile of legal highs, which numbered 101 new substances on the market last year, has been raised beyond belief. Numerous other charities are now raising awareness and undertaking research and Local Authorities are demanding education in their regions so that young people come to understand the associated dangers.
Untold numbers of young people will stay safe and families, unlike my own, will remain whole, never knowing the life sentence of losing a child needlessly. I tip my hat to David Cameron and thank him most sincerely for caring enough to support our campaign. Parents across the country will now be able to sleep easier in their beds, rightfully expecting their children to return home safely after a night out.
Despite your political persuasion, or whether you voted to remain or leave, the chances of keeping your children safe is greatly increased by the legacy from David Cameron. In my book that shouldn’t go untold or remain unacknowledged.
The new Psychoactive Substance Act comes into force today making ‘legal highs’ illegal. Over 500 points of sale, including more than 350 Head shops, websites and other retail outlets will close down so that young people will no longer be duped into thinking that ‘legal’ means safe. Our children will now come to realise the dangers associated with the 100 substances on the open market until today, many of which are highly addictive, and able to cause heart attacks, psychosis and even death. The new law comes into force following a relentless seven year campaign by the Angelus Foundation which I founded in memory of my daughter Hester Stewart.
Hester was my youngest daughter, a 21 year old medical student at Sussex University, which is the other side of the Downs from my House in Brighton. She was a student mentor as well as a very enthusiastic Cheer Leader. She sometimes called to say “Mummy, come and watch us practice tonight and by the way what are you making for dinner?”. She was a wonderful daughter who was much loved by all those whose lives she touched. Very sadly, she was given a legal high after an awards dinner by a ‘friend’ on 25th April 2009, and, coupled with the few drinks she had consumed during the evening, it shut down her respiratory system and she stopped breathing forever. Two Police Women appeared on my doorstep the following morning to relay the devastating news that broke my heart and the hearts of her family and close friends.
Probably because of my profile in the media as a wellness expert, author and broadcaster and the fact that Hester’s was such a star and not a drug taker, the story became irresistible to the media. We got tipped off by the Telegraph that we were about to be ‘door stepped’ by the press and indeed they camped out on our doorstep for the following four days and nights whilst we were hidden in a hotel nearby.
I felt like I was living a nightmare, ripped out of real life and plummeted into a dark place filled with agony, pain and unfamiliar surroundings. I prayed I would wake up and real life would resume, but alas, that was not to be. Richard Edwards, the then Crime Correspondent from the Telegraph accompanied us to the hotel for those few days. It was during that time that we discovered that Hester had been given a substance called GBL, which I found out from Google was paint stripper. I also discovered that it had been banned for human consumption in many other countries around the world four years before and that several European countries had run awareness campaigns 18 months before, in conjunction with night clubs, charities and the police highlighting the fact that GBL + Alcohol = Death.
Jackie Smith, the Home Secretary in the UK at the time, had been urged by the European Committee on Drug Dependency Monitoring as well as the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to raise awareness about the dangers of GBL in a similar way to our European counterparts, but she chose to take no action. I felt angry and aggrieved when I discovered her inertia as I felt certain that Hester, who absolutely adored life and helping others, would still be alive if she and her friend had known about the dangers. It was my anger and devastating loss that fuelled my passion to campaign to raise awareness so that other families wouldn’t have to experience a similar life sentence.
I was asked to write a book about the death of Hester, what loss of a child means to a mother and, in line with my previous 26 self-help books, A – Z of coping with grief. Whilst I gave it serious thought I came to the conclusion that my daughter would have been in favour of me doing something to help the living instead of wallowing in my own loss. So instead of curling up in a ball, really choosing to swap places with Hester, I set up the Angelus Foundation, made myself get out of bed each day with the determination I would somehow save lives in her memory as she would have done if she had lived to qualify as a doctor.
I was completely clueless about how I was going to achieve my objective, except to say that my first stop was to meet with Jackie Smith, the Home Secretary, and ask her to account for her lack of action. I also knew I needed to do more research and talk to medical experts to expand my understanding. I felt utterly shocked as a knowledgeable health care professional that I had no clue what legal highs were until Hester’s death. Even her father who is a medical doctor had no knowledge that chemicals and drugs were being used for recreational purposes purporting to be safe as they were ‘legal’.
During my lifetime I often found myself challenged with many weird and wonderful tasks I hadn’t planned to do, I used to joke that I felt like I was in training for something. I came to realise that all of that had been actually been the dress rehearsal for the next chapter in my life. I needed all the skills I could muster for the wondrous, magical, fulfilling and inspirational journey I was about to embark upon. One that would truly save lives and preserve wellbeing.
There was one key thing that I needed to learn, however, and that was to tune in and trust the Universe. In exchange for losing Hester I seemed to be given an increased perception from helpers who were my ‘higher powers’, or spiritual guides; call them what you will. And the cherry on the cake was that I was certain that Hester was with me in spirit every step of the way. Call me ridiculous if you like, but how else could I have been followed around by multiple TV cameras since day one? Managed to get massive coverage on TV and in the national newspapers and keep the headlines going over six years, some days doing as many as 8 TV interviews in one day? How could the Angelus Foundation have engineered laws to be changed when leading experts said it would never happen? Be introduced to Lady Valerie Corbett who called for helpers? Attract a member of The Royal Family, the Duchess of Kent, as the Patron to the Foundation I eventually set up and four members of The House of Lords? Plus a number of household name celebrities and more world class experts than would eventually completely fill a large Board Room at the Guildhall, given to us on a pro bono basis? I had personal communication with the Prime Minister as well as large numbers of other Ministers over the years and had the honour to become friends and working associates with Mitch, Jane and Janis Winehouse, parents of Amy, and the highly accomplished Vicky Unwin, due to the common losses and objectives to make a difference to the world in memory of our daughters.
The Angelus journey was fuelled by my passion to change the world for other young people, who like Hester were not risk takers, so that they could stay safe, fulfil their life potential and keep families whole. The starting point was zero awareness across the board, with the exception of few key experts, who themselves were grappling with the limited information.
After seven years of relentless campaigning, and law changes we achieved in the meantime, we helped to create a new Bill which was the first Bill mentioned in the Queens Speech in the summer of 2015. The new Psychoactive Substance Act became law today, April 26 2016. That is a huge win for Team Angelus. And today, as a result of the Angelus initiative, the profile about legal highs has been raised beyond belief. Numerous other charities are now raising awareness and undertaking research and Local Authorities are demanding education in their regions.
As a result of my arduous and emotional journey, sometimes working more than 70 hours per week, and the collective efforts of Team Angelus, young people will now survive rather than die, wellbeing will prevail instead of huge numbers of young people becoming mentally ill, and parents will be armed with sufficient knowledge to keep their young safe. I am proud to share my story and hope that, instead of dwelling on the sadness of loss, light bulbs will go on in minds across the world when they realise that they too have the ability to bring about positive change. It’s simply a matter of learning to trust and tune into your inner wisdom, whilst at the same time being brave enough to follow your passions and collaborate without ego to achieve your objectives. As my experience shows, absolutely anything is possible!
Nothing will bring Hester back, but as a result of her passing the Angelus Foundation has saved lives and prevented millions of young people from coming to harm. I am proud of our collective achievement and sincerely thank the wise experts, supporters and funders who supported our mission.