Why We Should All Be Talking About Our Lady Garden

01/09/2016 17:47 | Updated 02 September 2016
Mika Simmons

In 2001 my Mum, Rosie, died after a very short battle with Ovarian Cancer. She was 54.

When she told Keir (Keir Simmons, older brother and NBC journalist) and I about her diagnosis, the very next thing she said was - "Don't worry, I'm not going to die, I'm going to beat this".

It was only when I came back to London and told a couple of knowledgeable friends that I began to understand the seriousness of ovarian cancer and that my Mum had, in fact, been diagnosed with a silent killer.

Silent because the symptoms, so similar to many other changes in that area of the body often go undetected. Silent because then (and now) women still don't seem to have a vocabulary to talk about these things. And finally silent because so often they are diagnosed too late. At Stage 4, my mum didn't stand a chance.

Aged 27 I was ill prepared to lose my Mum, my best friend and my biggest fan. The next ten years were bleak for me. I really lost my confidence and made some very bad choices. During that time, I'd always had in the back of my mind a desire to do something around awareness of Gynaecological Cancers - a drive that might encourage women to be more conscious and not ignore the symptoms as my Mum did. So, when in 2014 my friend and neighbour, Dr Susana Banerjee, asked me to raise some funding for key research into Gynae Cancers at The Royal Marsden my answer was immediately yes, but with a proviso - we had to launch a concurrent awareness campaign.

Overnight we pulled together a committee of empowered women who all had a very personal experience of Gynae Cancers and were passionate about changing the face of these cancers. Chloe Delevingne, Jenny Halpern Prince - both had been diagnosed with pre-cancerous cervical cells; myself, Tamara and Clare Beckwith, Josephine Daniel and Emily Hambro had lost our Mums.

Now we just needed a campaign! We wanted it to be tongue-in-cheek and fun, a doorway to more serious conversations.

Why did it need to be fun? Because at one of our very first committee meetings - we discovered that none of us felt comfortable saying the word vagina. Even though many of us were very old friends and one of us, Tamara, had even been in the play The Vagina Monologues! But we still couldn't say it.

Why? Not wanting to upset someone else? Or shame? We realised we felt too ashamed to talk about "down there". And now - we felt ashamed that we were too ashamed to talk about "down there".

We were incentivised. How could we free it up - get women talking in a fun, light way that could then lead to a more serious discussion about the symptoms of gynaecological cancer?

We didn't really think the "Vagina Campaign" had much of a ring to it ... so we sat around a table and brainstormed. We choose a communal nickname - Lady Garden - and challenged the nation to share their nickname with us. And it worked. Topshop loved it and signed up almost immediately and the sweatshirts designed by Simeon Farrar of Black Score fame sold out over and over again during Gynaecological Awareness Month 2015.

We'd really wanted Cara to be the face of last year's campaign - but as we were collaborating with a brand, unfortunately she was contracted elsewhere. This year she was free and, when Chloe asked her to help, she was really excited to become a spokeswoman for the campaign. She's our perfect ambassador - a young women on a mission to encourage young women to feel confident with themselves, just the way they are. On the shoot I saw that first hand, Cara was incredibly open and brave. When we asked about why she's supporting she put it simply "At the end of the day, [speaking up] is more important than being embarrassed. This is about saving lives - there's no time for shame."

For us, this is the most important message. Don't wait for your friends to start taking about gynae issues - be the one to start the conversation. Empowered women - empower women. Speak up and you might just save someone's life.

We call ours Lady Garden. Cara calls hers Randy Jackson. What do you call yours?



Uk Women