Emi Howe shares her experience with Women @ ConvaTec Inc

Hi, I’m Emi, I’m a member of the Speaker’s Collective, a sociologist, an advanced body therapist and breast cancer survivor of eight years. This week I had the pleasure of taking part in a corporate breast cancer event held by the global company, ConvaTec Inc.

I’m so impressed with the interest and investment this company takes in creating real and meaningful added value for their people. Breast cancer impacts one in eight women and as such is bound to have an impact either directly or indirectly on a global workforce.

The event formed part of a working lunch called Lunch and Learn: Recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month and was organised by the ConvaTec’s Women’s Network. It lasted for an hour, which is a perfect format and bitesize introduction to a wellbeing/awareness subject such as this.


First we heard from Jill H, a ConvaTec colleague undergoing active treatment, on the eve of her final round of chemo! I know this will be a triumphant time in her treatment, best wishes to Jill and I hope that final round went well. I remember mine well with the relief that this time the healing could progress beyond the next infusion.

Jill gave us some great stats about mammograms and their use and early detection being so important to the positive outcome of a breast cancer journey. Please go and get your mammograms, even during these Covid times, it’s important to maintain other health markers too.

Jill also briefly mentioned male breast cancer – which accounts for 1% of all breast cancers. It’s important that any men noticing changes to their chest and underarms also get a professional opinion. Sadly the mortality rate in male breast cancers is larger, simply because men put off diagnosis and assume it couldn’t happen to them.

Similarly I didn’t think it could be happening to me at 33 years old. I put off getting a formal diagnosis for three months which now seems quite scary. I was lucky though and I have made a good, full recovery. For my part, I offered tips on diagnosis, advice on how to help a loved one or colleague with a breast cancer diagnosis, I focussed on some of the positives that the diagnosis brought about – most notably my shift in career and an increased confidence to speak out about real issues - and finally I mentioned what skills the diagnosis had developed in me. In case we ran out of time (which we didn’t), in my back pocket I had a list of things not to say to breast cancer patients!

I touched briefly on my own super-passion, the career pivot I mentioned - I now educate others around body image. My experiences with cancer and its treatment and recovery (coupled with extensive research), gives me a unique insight into how we treat our bodies and how they treat us. Our bodies are our Most Valuable Asset. Every part of life starts and ends with our bodies. Every possibility, every bit of our potential relies on a working body. They work 24/7/365 for us, creating as much health as they can, given their conditions and resources. Even when we sleep! When I was in recovery, not just from chemo but from the four body shifting surgeries I’ve had, I’d marvel at how time and rest was all that I needed to give my body, for it to restore itself back to health. It is truly a marvel!

It made my previous relationship with it, one based on how it looks - filled with rejection, shame, criticism and judgement - seem pretty ungrateful! I also learnt how that state is maybe the worst possible place to try and make positive and healthy changes from.

Moreover, now many of us are spending more time alone, perhaps interacting with an unreal media more, never has it been more important to check our self-talk and reality thinking.

This stuff is so important and relevant to a huge number of people. Maybe we are coming at bodies all wrong? I now offer speaking opportunities and workshops through The Speakers Collective and online courses for the corporate world as that’s an area that is missing this input (schools and youth groups are already doing it well).

If you’re still not convinced body image has a role in your workplace, try taking this quiz and see what you think.

As I sign off I ask, if you do nothing else today, please check your boobs, you too boys!

For anyone who needs help and support with any issues relating to Breast Cancer please find some links below.

Links:

UK

Breast Cancer Now

Macmillan Cancer Support

US

Susan G. Koman Foundation

Male breast cancer

Male Breast Cancer Coalition

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