An interview with Clare Baumhauer: Vulval Cancer UK Awareness

Doing the job I do, I get to meet many women, all with a story to tell. 

I met this lady and was blown away by her bravery, determination, motivation, drive and selflessness. Clare Baumhauer is an exceptional woman, despite her own Lichen sclerosus/vulval cancer (LS/VC) journey, she has selflessly set up Vulval Cancer UK Awareness. She is a strong, empowering role model for many women. Clare has consented to share her story to help all women, in the hope that they can get the right diagnosis, at the right time. 

Clare, can you please tell me about your awareness group? 

I started my Vulval Cancer UK Awareness (VC) support group first and later joined a Lichen Sclerosus (LS) group and met Emma Norman, who runs the LS group. I was already raising awareness on my Instagram and Twitter, but we joined together and started the Facebook page – Lichen Sclerosus/Vulval Cancer UK Awareness and website 2 years ago. We also started our #knowyourvulva yearly campaigns to further raise awareness. 

How did you become aware of VC/LS?

The first time I heard about VC was when the GP said I could have VC after many years of being told I had thrush. Looking back to being a child of about 5, I had vulval itching and was told I had cystitis even though the GP didn’t examine me. My symptoms came and went over the years, but I still went to see many GP’s in my 20’s and 30’s multiple times but was told I had thrush every time. Then finally a GP did a swab which came back clear; so a blood test was taken and this didn’t show up anything untoward. So, I was told it was probably early menopause symptoms and sent on my way with no support, advice or anything. I had regular smear tests, this was when I had white patches on the vulva and a tear and nothing was mentioned by the health professionals.

I went back after a tear in my perineum wouldn’t heal and had turned into a ulcer which got bigger and bigger, I was 43. At first GP said it was herpes and to go to a GUM clinic. I was shocked so she asked how many partners I had, and I said just my husband since the age of 18. She then looked again and said it could be VC, so I was urgently referred for a biopsy which showed LS and VC, again I had never heard of LS either. Looking back, we realised I had LS since a child so left undiagnosed and untreated turned to cancer.

What triggered you to start VCUK Awareness? 
As I hadn’t heard of either conditions and no one I told had either, including many health professionals; I started to look on social media for advice and didn’t find anything at first. I then came across a gynaecological charity on twitter which didn’t do much for VC and then found 3 more charities, but they didn’t include VC. So, I decided to start my own awareness group. My first story went viral and many women contacted me to say they had similar symptoms to me and after seeing my story went back to the doctors and mentioned LS which got them diagnosed after years of being told thrush too. I had to keep going and give VC and LS a voice.

What advice would you give women? 

To look at their vulva at least once a month so you know what’s normal for you and report any changes you see to your doctor. If any treatment you are given doesn’t help then go back, and ask to be referred to a specialist as I don’t think that thrush is as common as they may think, as it could be LS. 

What practical tips can you share? 

Check your vulva and keep a diary and photos so can note and compare any changes and what could be causing any flares. If diagnosed with LS then use a emollient regularly as well as a steroid. No one should use perfume products and wear white cotton knickers. 

CHECK YOURSELF OUT LADIES
#knowyourvulva 

An interview with Helen from Lady Days

Lady Days are the way forward for period hygiene?

Helen, what inspired you to develop Lady Days?

Many years ago, cough 21yrs, after the birth of my son. I developed an infection and found disposables intolerable. So, I used some flannels instead which was so much more comfortable and soon discovered they were more absorbent than even the maternity disposable pads I had. 

Once I began to feel better and was more settled into my new mummy role I started hunting for alternative. 

Back then online shopping wasn’t what it was today and I really struggled to find anything. I eventually found a menstrual cup and some white liners. I used them for years successfully but it came to a point where I need new ones and yet again I was just coming across plain white ones. 

That’s when I decided I was going to and try make my own. My mum gave me her vintage sewing machine, which is still in my loft, and I set to making my own pads. 

I never intended to start a business but found that friends were asking for my pads and loving them. It took over 2yrs of research and development to finally have a pad that I thought was good enough to sell. 

I was working full time but circumstances at home meant I need to be home more to support my son. That was the moment that I thought right, let’s see if I can do this. There’s got to be more people out there like me who can benefit for using cloth. 

That was 8 years ago now. 

Lady Days are the way forward for period hygiene?

Did you have experience of running a business before setting up Lady Days

Well, my working background is in retail management. Although I had not run my own business before I had picked up some valuable skills from my previous employers. 

This meant I had a good understanding of keeping figures, setting targets, keeping organised accounts etc so I felt like I had the tools I needed to get started and would learn a lot on my journey. 

What is the best thing about running your own business? What have you found challenging?

There are so many best things. I love that I’m home for my family as my studio is the garage which we converted 3yrs ago. But I love meeting lovely customers online and having chats with them. I get to talk so intimately with them and they trust me to help them with their needs. 

The most challenging thing for me is the technical side of business. Social media, website engineering, digital design etc. I do absolutely everything myself so have had to learn a lot of new skills over the years. Honestly if you told me 9yrs ago that I would be coding a website and designing fabrics and packing I would never had believed it. But here I am doing exactly that and still learning new skills. 

Lady Days are the way forward for period hygiene?

Can you tell us why Lady Days are the way forward for period hygiene?

Cloth alternatives are a world of difference to disposables. Where programmed into thinking that pads should be white, discarded in the trash and hidden away like a dirty secret.

But what we’re not told is that to get those pads so white and sterile looking, they are bleached. This process leaves chemicals and dioxins in the products. Those chemicals draw the blood from your body which can increase blood flow and as a result increase cramping.

Cloth pads do not contain those nasty harsh chemicals and in a large number of cases, people find their periods get lighter and shorter after making the switch. Because of the special fabrics I use my cloth pads are more absorbent than disposable pads and people are shocked at just how much they do hold. 

I’ve spent many years testing fabrics and building relationships with suppliers so that my pads are made with only the best fabrics. 

Cloth pads and period pants are so comfortable you really will forget your wear them. Non of those sticky bits to get stuck, because let’s face it, nobody likes pube snagage right?! 

Once you have enough reusable products to last you a cycle your set. No running out of products and having to dash to the shops. So perfect for peri menopause when you never know when you may start a period, this is me right now. I keep a little pad pod in my bag with a couple of pads in it so I don’t worry. 

And they look great! You can have a cloth pad in a little pad wrapper in your bag and no one would know.

How can using Lady Days help the environment?

Lady Days are reusable, yes, your going to bleed on that pretty fabric and then wash it. But that’s ok, it’s just our own bodily fluids, no different than if we bled on a pair of underwear. We wouldn’t throw them away, they would get washed.

1 Lady Days pad or pair of period pants can replace 250+ disposables. That’s a huge saving for our environment. Even when a Lady Days pad has come to the end of its life, which can be 5yrs or more, it can be broken down and recycled with other fabric waste. 

It makes so much sense. Our beautiful planet is choking in plastic waste we owe it to do what we can to reduce our use of single use plastics. Ditching disposable sanitary products is a great way to help. 

Lady Days Sure, so my main products are cloth menstrual pads that I make in a variety of shapes, sizes and absorbencies. So there’s something to suit everyone.

Can you talk us through your range?

Sure, so my main products are cloth menstrual pads that I make in a variety of shapes, sizes and absorbencies. So there’s something to suit everyone. 

I make period pants that are the most comfortable pants ever! They have a built in pad in them so if you come on unexpectedly your covered. They are also great for those little leaks we sometimes get. 

I have developed an accessories range that compliment cloth pads greatly like reusable wipes and wet bags that are great for storing your reusables in. 

I also make, breast pads and cloth nappies as part of my Baby Days brand. The baby to Lady Days. 

All my products are hand made by me in my little studio in Yorkshire. It’s really important for me to produce all my products and not be tempted to import them. 

When I need things like business cards and packaging I source them from local businesses where possible or nationally if available locally. 

We really need to be mindful of where and how the products we buy are made and support our British industry. 

Lady Days are the way forward for period hygiene?

For more information about Helen’s products please visit her Lady Days website

An interview with the Founder of Menomagic, Steven Crumblehulme

Steven Crumblehulme the founder of Menomagic.

Your Peri Pathway was super excited to interview Steven Crumblehulme the founder of Menomagic.

So, what inspired you to develop menomagic?

My Mum, mostly.  She had suffered with a range of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleep problems and anxiety for a number of years.  When I would see her, I would give her a Reflexology treatment, which she always found to be beneficial.  However, we don’t live close to each other, and she would often comment that she wished she could take my hands with her for times when she felt her symptoms.  Mum had always used my homemade hand cream, and so one day, she suggested whether I could come up with a cream that could help with her hot flushes, mainly.  I’d never thought of it, but then one of my clients asked a similar question, so I went about researching which essential oils would be beneficial for symptoms experienced during the menopause.  Finally, I came up with a blend of four essential oils; peppermint to cool, lavender to calm, rose geranium to improve mood and clary sage to balance.  I called it ‘Menomagic’ and gave it to my Mum and a couple of clients as gifts for Christmas.  That was in 2017, and I thought no more of it.

Did you have any experience of making creams oils?

Yes, when I completed my Reflexology training, I did a short blending course.  In this, I learned about blending creams to use in my own treatments – specifically, I created a recipe for a foot, hand and face cream.  All had their own unique blend of essential oils and I have continued to use these with my clients for the various treatments I offer.

menomagic

What actually got you going into making menomagic into a business?

After Christmas of 2017, my Mum called to say she loved the cream and that it really worked for her. She said that, on experiencing a hot flush, she applied it (as I’d suggested) to pulse points, such as the inner wrists, behind the ears and on the neck, to help cool her skin down. 

With the cream, her flushes were only lasting a few seconds, then started to calm down again.  She asked if I’d make some for her friends, whom had also tried it and found it effective.  To my surprise, my clients that had tried it told me a similar story. I decided that this was something that many people could benefit from and so I started to research how to get my blend tested so that I could sell it commercially.  I then launched the cream, now called the ‘all in one cooling cream’ (as it later was found to help with sleep, itchy skin and anxiety) on World Menopause Day, 2018.

Your business has gone from strength to strength! What has been your best highs? What would you have done differently?

It continues to be a high to get positive feedback, especially from those that claim the cream has changed their life, because they hadn’t found anything else that worked for them.  It’s always great to know that it helps so many during peri, menopause and post menopause. I think another high was when we had national press in March 2019.  Mum and I had recorded an interview with a freelance journalist in January of that year, and didn’t hear any more after that.  The day before the news broke, the journalist called me to say our story would be printed in 4 national newspapers online.  The next day, we sold out of all stock in 2 hours, it was unbelievable. 

In terms of what I would have done differently, I think it would have been to keep in contact with the journalist to be better prepared – it took almost two months to process all the sales that continued to build whilst I had more creams made up and, whilst it was great to be so successful, it was very stressful and I wished I’d been more prepared!

menomagic

Can you tell us more about your products?

After the first year, I decided to expand the range slightly, again using Mum as my willing guinea pig.  She decided it would be nice to have a pillow spray, a richer body cream and a face serum.  From customer feedback, I also wanted to have a travel size version of the original ‘cooling cream.’  

So, this led to a 50ml and 15ml size of the ‘all in one cooling cream’ which people find helpful for calming down during a hot flush or night sweat, and many customers rub it into their feet before bed to help them sleep.  The calming aroma of the oils is also great for anxiety.  

The 50ml Marula Oil Facial Serum has oils such as frankincense, apricot, rose damask and rose geranium.  It’s a light serum that can be used as a night oil or during the day with make-up on top.  The oil is great for helping to minimise fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage and its rich in Vitamins C and E to help hydrate and repair skin.

The 100ml pillow spray contains both lavender and rose geranium.  We advise people to spray it onto their pillow and linen a few minutes before bedtime, and the lovely aroma helps to calm and relax you for sleep.

Finally, our 100ml she body butter contains lavender and rose geranium again, and is great for dry, itchy skin – which is a very common symptom of the menopause. 

What other talents do you possess? ie sleep/anxiety

Before getting into complementary therapies, my background was in Psychology.  I have both a Batchelor’s and Master’s degree in Psychology, which I often use to help with aftercare for my clients.  For example, I get many clients coming to me with sleep and anxiety problems, so I’m able to draw on my training to help find solutions that work for them. 

For further information on these amazing products to go www.menomagic.co.uk