TEDx Oldham: Jo Taylor from After Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Having “survived” primary breast cancer, Jo went on to be diagnosed with metastatic ‘stage 4’ cancer, which was detected in a number of sites on her body. She was never told the survival statistics but knew she had a median life expectancy of another two to three years.

Jo Taylor set up After Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD)

But Jo had other plans, she wanted to live well for the sake of both her family and herself. She also knew that she wanted to support other women.

She knew that exercise made her feel better and she wanted to raise money for the Christie cancer hospital and loved leading 23 people in a 62 mile charity cycle ride between Manchester and Blackpool.

“Exercise really is a pill.”

Jo Taylor, After Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Jo wanted to help other women living with breast cancer and the harsh treatments associated with it. This led her to set up After Breast Cancer Diagnosis or ABCD as it’s known.

In between rounds of treatment, she started running retreats which challenged the women to be active and motivated through cycling, Nordic walking, running and yoga. In addition and the friendships developed by the women on the retreat flourished with small support groups.

Through her own experiences and research Jo has begun to gather evidence for the role of exercise in preventing secondary cancer, ‘prehab’ exercise in preparation for surgery and the mental health benefits of exercise for those being treated for and living with cancer.

Last year, having won Big Lottery funding, she ran retreats for 38 women in Saddleworth with another five retreats planned for 2019.

Jo has created a movement, just look at the hashtag #busylivingwithmets on Twitter. She tells the people that she helps “you will be lapping everyone on the couch”, it’s about making little changes that can have immediate and future benefits.

She urges healthcare professionals to encourage exercise and good nutrition for recovery from cancer and its treatments. “Exercise really is a pill” she says, both for mental and physical wellbeing.

Read my main TEDxOldham 2019 blog here.

TEDx Oldham 2019: The town that dares to be wise

I’ve been to several TEDx talks in the last few years and was tipped off that Oldham had its own offering a few weeks ago.

Reading through the list of speakers a few life stories spoke to me and I bagged myself a ticket (for what turned out to be a sell-out event).

Andy Hall (left) with the speakers for TEDx Oldham 2019

I can’t do all the speakers justice here so I’m going to pull out a few ideas which grabbed my interest from the content-packed day.

TEDx has superfans…

Diane Atkinson doing her bit for Ruth Major’s ‘1 piece of rubbish’ movement. Picture courtesy of @DianeAtkinson

As I arrived at TEDx Oldham at Oldham Central Library I was delighted to bump into Diane Atkinson, who I know through Manchester Girl Geeks, and her friend Wendy who are both active in the Women’s Institute.

They told me they went to every TEDx they could get to and were particularly impressed with TEDx Bollington in June, where our host for the day Andy Hall had shared his mental health and exercise story.

Speaker notes

Andy Hall

Andy is bursting with passion for Oldham, introducing the event with the words: “We love this town”.

Joking about his own recent TEDx talk he says that he found himself waking up talking to himself as he rehearsed his talk. He introduced the following two speakers before the main line-up.

“Let’s make Oldham the Shoreditch of the North.”

Andy Hall

Ruth Major

Ruth is on a mission to clean up rubbish, with the simple message that picking up #1pieceofrubbish is something that everyone can do. She challenged us to do just that over the lunch break (see the picture of Diane doing her bit above).

Samah Khalil

Samah is Oldham’s current @Youth_Mayor and spoke with passion both about the town she lives in and the potential of everybody to make a difference.

Jo Taylor

Having “survived” primary breast cancer, Jo went on to be diagnosed with metastatic ‘stage 4’ cancer, which was detected in a number of sites on her body. She was never told the survival statistics but knew she had a median life expectancy of another two to three years.

But Jo had other plans, she wanted to live well for the sake of both her family and herself. She also knew that she wanted to support other women.

She knew that exercise made her feel better and she wanted to raise money for the Christie cancer hospital and loved leading 23 people in a charity cycle ride between Manchester and Blackpool.

“Exercise really is a pill.”

Jo Taylor, After Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Jo wanted to help other women living with breast cancer and the harsh treatments associated with it. This led her to set up After Breast Cancer Diagnosis or ABCD as it’s known.

Read more on Jo Taylor at TEDx Oldham 2019.

Sean Brown

A series of unusual events led Sean to setting up successful tech businesses in the UK in his twenties. He was always one to push himself out of his comfort zone and racked up a series of glamorous jobs in Australia and the Far East which included teaching the owners of yachts to dive.

A chance meeting with actress Kate Hudson made him realise that he could go for what he wanted in life and hoped to become a videographer. On returning to the UK for training he met his girlfriend Hannah and his priorities changed again.

Despite having set up his tech company Mercarto and forming a business partnership with Lawrence Smith CEO of UKFast, Sean says he’s always felt like an imposter and puts his success down to his daring attitude.

Heather Price

Heather, like Samah Khalil, sits on Oldham’s Youth Council. She can see that our climate and environment are in crisis and is passionate and vocal about what needs to be done.

Heather appeals to politicians to stop seeing ‘success’ in terms of money and look how we can preserve our natural resources.

“We can be the solution.”

Heather Price

Raam Shanker

Raam is an engineer with a background in mathematics. He thought maths was difficult and was taken by surprise by the complexity of the English language and culture when he left his home in Bangalore, India to start a masters degree in Sheffield.

He was surprised to face the phenomenon of queuing and illogical pronunciation of words and shared his MUM model for living, ‘Manage, Understand, Master’.

You can hear more from Raam, who is the director of engineering company Equitus on Twitter.

Hayley Lever

While our bodies and minds benefit from movement and activity, many modern jobs and lifestyles cause us to lead increasingly sedentary lives.

Brisk walking for thirty minutes a day is enough to helps us feel better and Hayley Lever is on a mission to get everyone moving more. This is an inclusive campaign which nudges people towards manageable movement.

“Movement needs to be designed back into life.”

Hayley Lever, lead GM Moving

Hayley has written about leading the ‘GM Moving’ campaign and her TEDx presentation and the #activesoles message.

Have a read of her personal blog where Hayley writes with passion about her role and reveals why Manchester’s mayor Andy Burnham announced that council staff they could wear trainers to work.

Rubbi Bhogal-Wood

While Rubbi relied on her specialist social media skills to run her businesses, she started to experience negative emotional effects of using social platforms.

Despite her businesses thriving, Rubbi felt anxious and overwhelmed when she felt there were not enough ‘likes’ being added to her pages.

It was only at this point that she began to educate herself on the mechanisms behind social media, the algorithms that were set up to make sure that we always came back for more by delivering a dopamine ‘hit’ each time our posts received a ‘like’ or comment.

Rubbi has a warning and a bit of advice:

1. Set the rules

2. Get as much human interaction as you can

Rubbi Bhogal-Wood

Henry C Blanchard

Having set up the Uganda Marathon to bring people and money into the country Henry realised that he was not a ‘superhero’.

Despite the millions of pounds he’d raised making a difference to the African nation, he realised he was possibly not the best person to run the project and handed it over to a Uganda colleague, Joshua.

Henry is honest about what he has learned from the experience and the charity he set up now has an all-Ugandan board of trustees. He gives others looking to fundraise or help others the following advice:

1. Ask yourself why you are trying to help these people

2. Ask others what they want

3. Work together

Henry C. Blanchard

Lisa Marie Gee

Photographer and artist Lisa Marie Gee says her life changed when she had a breakdown 16 years ago, getting involved with the Time To Change who she is now an ambassador for.

In her recovery she picked up a camera and starting taking portraits which conveyed messages about getting better from mental health difficulties. What started with contributions from friends grew through word of mouth and the ‘Open Shutter’s project attracted some high profile subjects.

The first exhibition took place at Gallery Oldham in September 2018 and you can learn more about Lisa’s Open Shutters project on her website.

Doddz

Having being branded ‘dyslexic’ and then ‘very dyslexic’ in his school career Doddz has succeeded as a commercial street artist in the UK, going on to set up his own fashion brands.

He describes himself as a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ and is clearly happy with the place his career has reached. He has some wisdom to impart:

1. Attitude matters – challenge the word ‘impossible’.

2. Self-belief – follow your passion.

3. Surround yourself with people better than you AND
try to be the hardest working person you know.

4. Don’t wait – what’s your goal with your limited time on earth?

Doddz

Marzia Babakarkhail

A judge and lawyer, Marzia fled from Afghanistan after being attacked for her political beliefs. She says, as an asylum seeker, she found her home in Oldham – a place she is clearly fond of.

Her career before arriving in the UK had been varied and included setting up a school in Pakistan for Afghan refugees. When she arrived here she had no English and took up classes as Oldham College.

She describes English as her ‘oxygen’ and has always been keen to promote educational opportunities for girls. She is a trustee for the charity City of Sanctuary which works to welcome refugees to the UK>

“Always stand against injustice – if not you, then who will?”

Marzia Babakarkhail

What I came away with…

Through all the speakers, regardless or age or background there were two common threads that came through:

  1. It’s never too late to learn or try something new.
  2. One small action or one conversation can make a change.

I quite enjoyed TEDx Oldham, there really is something to say for the local. Perhaps next year I’ll be speaking….

 

Beyond ‘box ticking’: MIF introduces the Lived Experience Movement

Picture courtesy of Manchester International Festival via Twitter

When you are different society does not cater to your needs, you do not have power and more than likely you don’t have access to the freedoms that those with power take for granted.

But things are changing. Diversity initiatives have invited people from a wider range of backgrounds into the institutions that make important decisions for all of us, about things like our health, wealth and the law.

Of course this is a good thing, but it is only a very tentative step in the right direction.

For real and meaningful changes to happen which genuinely make society a fairer place for all our citizens it is not good enough merely to employ people with lived experience of disadvantage.

The value of lived experience among the leadership of the organisations that shape our society needs to be recognised, championed and believed in.

As part of the Interdependence line-up at this year’s Manchester International Festival, a panel entitled ‘How do we reclaim our humanity?’, six extraordinary people described how their life experiences had led them to head up their own organisations.

Human rights lawyer and Clore Social Fellow Baljeet Sandhu headed up the cast of ‘New Constellations’ – the bright stars who are leading a new era creating new services and opportunities for the unheard.

Baljeet founded Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit based in London and was its director from 2012 until 2019. She is one of the UK’s top experts on children’s rights in relation to asylum and immigration law. 

Paula Harriott is a mum, grandmother and part of the senior management team at the Prison Reform Trust, she is open about having faced a long custodial sentence herself and believes that more needs to be done to meet the needs of the one in ten people in the UK who have a criminal record.

Sunny Dhadley talked about his own experience of addiction to heroin and cocaine. He explains how he developed a peer-led treatment model after he found post-detox support failed to adequately support those in recovery. (More on this in his excellent TEDxWolverhampton talk).

Farzana Khan is a youth worker from Tower Hamlets, one of London’s poorest and most culturally diverse boroughs. She started working with young people when she was 14 and created inclusive arts products.

She found that institutions didn’t meet her needs or those of other people who were the brown or black, or those with LGBTQI identities, disabled people and those from a range of disadvantaged backgrounds.

Farzana set up Healing Justice London to address the need to ensure that health and wellbeing can be a focus for every person, and that the distress of loss and trauma are shared, acknowledged with individuals and communities given the chance to repair themselves.

Jane Cordell has an incredible career portfolio as a musician, educationalist and diplomat among other roles. In 2010 she was denied a position on the basis of the cost of reasonable adjustments in relation to her hearing loss.

She believes the world is missing out on the talents, skills and experiences of many people because of kind of treatment that she has faced in relation to her disability. (There’s lots more about Jane on her website gettingequal.com).

Peter Atherton grew up in the care system and became involved in crime during adolescence resulting in a custodial sentence.

With little to aspire to, his impulsive behaviour led to drug addiction and poor mental health and his chances of finding paid work faded.

In his thirties, he realised that he could use his experiences to help others. He volunteered before working in the public sector. However, he started to feel that his presence there was token and was frustrated.

Wanting to do more than ‘tick a box’, Peter set up Community Led Initiatives with another former addict. The peer-led organisation helps people to move on from difficult and traumatic experiences such as addiction, time in prison or homelessness.

It’s time for Lived Experience to make a difference

While ‘service users’, ‘clients’, ‘claimants’ and other outsiders are starting to get their voices heard in the development of state provision, having a place at the table is not enough.

So let’s not tick boxes, let’s turn the tables themselves.

There’s enough room for us all to bring our lived experience, share it and help each other to heal from the trauma, loss and alienation we have faced and build services that meaningfully involve those they most impact.

You must be Barking (Tales)

Picture courtesy of Harriet Dyer / Barking Comedy

I’m not quite sure when I came across stand-up comedian Harriet Dyer, but I think it was nearly five years ago at the Addictive Comedy night (alas no more) at Nexus Art Cafe in Manchester.

Harriet spoke candidly but hilariously about her history of mental illness and addiction to alcohol. Sometimes it’s the darkest material that can bring a sense of connection with the audience.

Strangely, the very next day it turned out I was in the same train carriage as Harriet and I took the liberty of introducing myself. We had a good old gossip and found out we have lots in common.

She told me about the monthly comedy night she’d set up called Barking Tales and how it was a haven for the socially awkward – including herself!

The rise and rise of Harriet Dyer

I continued to follow Harriet’s progress, mostly from a distance as I like going to bed quite early. I saw her appear on BBC Ouch, and rack up a series of Edinburgh shows and start to get recognition for her work.

Most recently, Barking Tales won a City Life award for Best Comedy Night in Manchester. When I read a BBC piece about Harriet’s work I decided it was finally time that I postponed bedtime and got down to the gig.

Light, sound and giggles all round

There are several things that makes Barking Tales more inclusive than most comedy nights. Doors open at 7pm and the show finishes around half past ten. There’s no ticket price but you are asked to ‘pay as you feel’ on the way out.

I arrive just as the show is kicking off. I am delighted to see that there is full, but not too full house for the three acts due on that night.

The place feels instantly welcoming and I take a seat towards the back. I am sitting next to Vanessa and Geoff who have clocked I’m taking notes. I tell them I have a mental health blog and they become my gig buddies.

As Harriet takes to the stage she’s at pains to make sure the audience are comfortable. Nothing’s too much trouble. The lights are adjusted at the request of a couple of punters and the sound levels are also sensitively altered during the evening.

The line-up…

First up is Scott Gibson who is preparing for his Edinburgh show. A straight-talking Glaswegian, Scott references his own dark moments before launching into a routine that can only be described as going from self-deprecating to self-defecating.

Lindsey Davies lives locally in Leigh but is recovering from a panic attack on the way back from a trip to Amsterdam. She talks about her anxiety disorder before riffing on her son’s ADHD, being a ‘Grandma’ at 42 and getting back in the dating game only to be branded a ‘cougar’.

Steve Harris quips about childhood Tourettes and losing weight as an adult. He lunges from harsh 1970s parenting to strange incidents in the gym. Steve plays the guitar (a bit) and his style reminds me of Graham Fellowes creation John Shuttleworth (in a good way).

Can I go to Barking Tales?

Barking Tales comedy night logo.

You totally should. I went on my own on a Wednesday evening in central Manchester and had a lovely time.

Yes, you can. The best place to find out information is on the Barking Tales Facebook Page or by following Harriet Dyer on Twitter.

You can also find more Harriet Dyer goodness on her regular podcast Don’t Worry, Bi (Polar) Happy on Podbean, Stitcher or Apple iTunes.

Psst…

Harriet did this rather stunning interview with comedian Sofie Hagen on her Made Of Human podcast. Harriet talks about her mental health history and how Barking Tales is an open space for people who are different. There are trigger warnings.

Mood Nudges: The Science Bit

bookcover

I’d like to give a massive thanks to everyone who attended my workshop on ‘Mood Nudges’ as part of Manchester Girl Geeks (MGG) event for Geek Mental Help Week.

I’ve written about the workshop in more detail on the MGG website, where we used exercises from Jon Cousins’ Nudge Your Way to Happiness: The 30 Day Workbook for a Happier You to generate simple mood-boosting ideas.

You can read more about what we did in the workshop here.

The Science Bit

At the end of the workshop I alluded to some recent research Jon that suggested the Mood Nudges 30 day programme made a real difference to those who completed the workbook.

Jon has given me a sneak preview of the findings which are outlined below:

“We set out to understand whether using the book Nudge Your Way To Happiness can help people who are clinically depressed.

If we measured their depression with a test that doctors use, before and after working their way through the book (which takes 30 days) would we see a difference?

The test we used, called the PHQ-9 – the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire) – produces a score between 0 and 27, with 0 meaning no depression, and 27 representing the most severe depression possible.

The score range is divided into five bands that, apart from the highest division, are drawn at five-point intervals.

Healthcare professionals use the PHQ-9 to help decide, in part, what treatment – such as antidepressants or psychotherapy / counselling might best help a patient.

They also ask patients to complete the test as one way of determining whether or not a chosen treatment is working.

When the PHQ-9 is used to measure progress, the rule of thumb is that a reduction in score of 5 points or more over a period of 4-6 weeks means the current treatment regime is working, and should therefore be continued.

We asked 51 people to use the book for 30 days, completing the PHQ-9 before they started, and again when they’d finished.

The participants were a randomly chosen subset of readers of the Moodnudges blog who weren’t pre-selected on the basis of being depressed, so the sample included a range of individuals from those who had only the most minimal depression to others who were experiencing moderately severe depression.

detailed-crop
Click for bigger version

The results, which can be seen in graph form, show two important findings:1. Across the board, the average reduction in PHQ-9 score over 30 days was 5.3, suggesting that using Nudge Your Way to Happiness can be as clinically effective as antidepressants or psychotherapy.

2. The greatest reductions in score were seen in those who were most depressed to start with. On average these participants’ scores fell from a level definitely placing them in the Moderately Severe category to one at the very lowest end of the Moderate division: only a whisker away from being labelled Mild.

Future work could involve working with a larger sample, and structuring the study as a randomized controlled trial. But these early results do seem promising.”

Resources

Find out what we did at the Mood Nudges workshop for Geek Mental Help Week hosted by Manchester Girl Geeks.

Mood Nudges website and daily blog: http://moodnudges.com/

Moodscope (free and paid options): https://www.moodscope.com/

Geek Mental Help website

Geek Mental Help on Twitter

Thanks to Mark Brown aka @markoneinfour and my brother Ellis for helping me develop the workshop format.

Being a part of BraCamp

This was the third year that I’ve volunteered to help run Manchester Girl Geeks BraCamp, but this year I was able to make more of a contribution and that felt really good.

bracamp-team
Manchester Girl Geeks #BraCamp team from left to right: Natalie-Claire Luwisha, Zoe E Breen (me) , Katie Steckles, Sam Headland, Emily Watkins, Gem Hill – Photograph courtesy of @mcrgirlgeeks

BraCamp, for those not in the know, is Manchester Girl Geeks twist on the BarCamp format. It’s an ‘unconference’ event where all attendees are invited to sign up for a slot to share their ideas and / or start a discussion. See the #BraCamp hashtag for tweets from the day.

So running the ticket confirmation process, meeting and greeting attendees on the day and a fair bit of tweeting from the Manchester Girl Geeks account (as well as my own) was a great way to connect with faces old and new.

IMG_2010_1024In between these activities I made it to a few of the talks – all of which were excellent. Topics ranged from women and digital music production, to what it takes to produce a podcast, and life after PhD study.

I also had a great chat with a teachers @upsideteach and @Mr_G_ICT and digital project manager @ColetteWeston about the challenges of teaching ICT and computing from Year 1 right through to Year 13.

Although I didn’t do a talk myself it was great fun to take part in the ‘slideshow karaoke’. In this challenge you are asked to give a convincing-sounding presentation to accompany a deck of slides that a) you’ve never seen before and b) are on a subject you know nothing about.

It took all my powers of improvisation to busk my way through a talk on combat vehicles in South Africa and try to convince the audience that badgers wearing body armour were capable of driving tanks.

This was topped by @jedw‘s efforts to speak authoritatively about golf – we were all fascinated to hear about the nine erogenous zones of a golf course!

Finally, as I’d managed to lose my raffle tickets, I offered to pick the tickets out for the fabulous prizes we’d lined up for the day. It was great to see the winners faces when they picked up their goodies.