Throughout Blossom City our restaurants will be offering guests the opportunity to donate £1 on their bill to the Lady Garden Campaign, in aid of the Gynaecological Cancer Fund. We quizzed its founder Mika Simmons on the origins of the colourfully-named initiative, and just why its work is so very important.
What inspired you to launch set up the Gynaecological Cancer Fund’s Lady Garden Campaign?
In 2013, Dr Susana Banerjee, a Clinical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden, asked me to do some fundraising for key research into personalised treatment of Gynaecological Cancers, with a goal of providing individualised and more effective treatments, so that all women will have the best chance of survival and quality of life. I immediately agreed, but also suggested I wanted to launch a major awareness campaign - something I’d had a burning desire to do since losing my Mum to ovarian cancer 10 years earlier. I had always wondered if she might have had a better chance of survival if she’d known what symptoms to look out for enabling earlier diagnosis. I knew awareness was paramount and so I put together a committee of women who had similar experiences to me. At our first meeting it was confirmed that we all felt the same - Tamara Beckwith had a similar sadness that perhaps her mother had ignored symptoms, while Chloe Delevigne and Jenny Halpern-Prince knew that their lives had been saved by early detections of pre-cancerous cervical cells.
What’s it all about?
Lady Garden is the first campaign by the Gynaecological Cancer Fund. We are a group of women on a mission to change the future of gynaecological cancers. These cancers are currently nicknamed the silent killers. Not only do we not know enough about the symptoms - but recent research by a leading female cancer charity revealed that nearly a third of women are too embarrassed to go to the doctor with gynaecological concerns – let alone talk to a friend. Apparently, 65% of women feel uncomfortable using the word 'vagina'! The Lady Garden Campaign is a spring board to draw awareness to the issue and empower women everywhere to talk more openly - without shyness or shame. The funds raised through this campaign will go towards Dr Banerjee’s ground-breaking research at The Royal Marsden so more women will have the chance to receive treatments that work for them, without being subjected to unnecessary side effects.
What made you settle on the name Lady Garden?
We felt it was a nickname for vagina that would grab the nation’s attention and that it had cross-generational appeal. That was important to us because not only do these cancers affect all ages – we discovered that women from teens through to ladies at retirement age found it difficult to talk about that area of their bodies. Even some female doctors we talked to admitted they still refer to 'down there'. We really wanted to shake that up and give women the confidence to be more open – humour is a great way to ignite conversation.
How important is humour to your campaign and why?
Very important. We felt this area of the woman’s body needed reclaiming and knew that humour was a good way to get women talking. Everyone we talk to about the Lady Garden Campaign laughs first, then wants to know what it’s about. I don’t think anyone forgets about it once they’re familiar.
What can people do to support?
• Join our Lady Garden Network and fundraise with us
• If you’re short on time you can always just donate here or here
• It even makes a difference if you just read more about us, the research we are funding and our upcoming events
What’s your ultimate goal?
We have a two pronged attack – we are raising awareness which ultimately leads to prevention. These cancers can be diagnosed earlier if women are knowledgable about symptoms and insist on being tested. And we believe the research by Dr Banerjee at The Royal Marsden will ultimately create better cancer care for women who are diagnosed – treatments that work, with fewer unnecessary side effects.
We do hope you will join us on our crusade to make these cancers Silent No More.
For more information on the Lady Garden Campaign go to ladygardencampaign.co.uk