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Episode 40 of The Andy Show

Episode 40 of The Andy Show

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:00:38] Hello and welcome back to another week of The Andy Show. I’m your host for today, Nicky Pennycook, and we’ve got some great guests lined up today and also for next week. I hope everyone’s had a lovely weekend. Been a bit cloudy but it looks like the sun is coming back and we’ve got a very nice day today. And so for today’s show, we’re going to be taking a look again at the charity’s sector and how they’re coping and how different things are now happening. And that we are in a lockdown situation. And they’re also looking to the future now that restrictions are designed to be lifted across the country. And so, my very lovely guest today is from the Eve Appeal. Her name is Athena and I think she will be joining us now. Hi, Athena.

ATHENA LAMNISOS [00:01:25] Hello there.

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:01:26] How are you doing?

ATHENA LAMNISOS [00:01:27] I’m good. Nice sunny day today, which is always good.

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:01:32] Yes, definitely. So, thank you for joining me today and it’s going to be nice to have a little chat around the charity and in Eve Appeal and what you guys are up to at the moment. So first just for the audience purpose, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what Eve Appeal actually is and what you do?

ATHENA LAMNISOS [00:01:51] Yeah, sure. So I’m Athena Lamnisos. I’m the Chief Executive of the Eve Appeal, we’re a pretty unusual charity. So we’re very focused about what we do and where we want to see change happen. So we work across the 5 gynecological cancers. So the ones that are to do with reproductive health that are far too little talked about underfunded and there are signs and symptoms are surrounded, in taboo and stigma. I’ll just say the names of those 5 cancers because you find everyone going, oh, 5? How come? Totally what they are. So there are 5 cancers, womb, ovarian, cervical, which is the one that many people have heard of because there’s a screening program and I’ll talk a little bit more about that because it is Cervical Screening Awareness Week this week and vulva and vaginal cancer. So those are the 5, we do, 3 things we are completely focused on prevention, risk prediction and early diagnosis. So, there are lots of other disease specific cancer charities that doing everything with regard to that kind of cancer type. Or you have juggernaut charities like Cancer Research UK or Macmillan who do a lot of things across all cancers. We’re focused on trying to stop cancer before it starts. So, we do that in 3 ways. We fund medical research in prevention, so trying to develop new screening programs, trying to improve early diagnosis, trying to improve risk prediction for development of those cancers. So, there’s a medical research, international research programs going on in labs and academic institutions through the world. Then the second thing that we do is we run awareness campaigns. So, telling people in the general public and that’s everyone about the signs, symptoms, what to look out for. And so obviously, Cervical Prevention Week is part of that. And then we run one direct service, which is a nurse led information service. So that’s email, telephone and some face to face work, although clearly not at the moment where people can contact us about anything that’s worrying them, whether that’s unusual bleeding or a lump or a bump or something they’re worrying about, hereditary risk. So, lots of the calls start with, you know, my aunt died of ovarian cancer. I know that can be hereditary. Am I at risk? Those kinds of questions. So that are the kind of 3 things that we do.

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:04:23] Thank you Athena. I think like your charity message is really important and a lot of like along with other businesses as well, charities are having to adapt and change the way they do things out there. So how have you found it as a charity? Have you face many challenges with how you’ve had to adapt or change things that you do?

ATHENA LAMNISOS [00:04:44] It’s been tough. I mean, it’s been tough for everyone and it’s been tough for a charity like us, in number of ways. So we are 100% reliant on voluntary donations. A lot of those donations and a lot of our fundraising comes through mass participation events and some of it through small participation of events. So people gathering together as friends, family, colleagues to raise funds for us in bake sales or runs or cycle rides, all of the big mass participation events. You know, we’re very reliant upon, say, London Marathon, etc.. All of that turned off overnight. You know, back in March. So that was really difficult. We had a couple of things lined up for March, which, you know, so it’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month where we run something called Make Time for Tea, and we raise a huge amount from a really, really dedicated group of around us and they weren’t able to gather together as friends and family and do that. Doing that work for us back then. We were about to have our first ever fair tonight where which was called Dear Mum. It was all around Mother’s Day. And we’d collected together a series of letters that people had written either to their moms or their daughters or about a mom who they’d lost to one of the gynae cancers. And those letters were going to be read out by a whole range of fantastic actors. So we had brilliant people lined out from Stephen Mangan. Oh, just a fantastic cast of people lined up to do that. Well, that had to be cancelled. So it’s really been very challenging. A lot of our research work has had to be stopped or delayed because laboratories have been turned towards other things or people can’t go into their laboratories. So that’s had to change. And then during May, May is one of our biggest campaign months. We run a campaign called Get Lippy, which is a consumer facing campaign, which we run through retail. Well, marvelous time to run a retail for retailers. But actually, we kind of, we took the attitude that we weren’t going to stop things. We were going to change what we were doing and we were going to carry on. And that’s certainly what certainly what we did through May, we Get Lippy, we move to a whole suite of online events rather than face to face events. Luckily for us, one of our retail partners was Tesco. And as we know, you know, seeks markets for the one retail outlet that were able to stay open. And then we had fantastic support online from the brands. So we’ve kind of just switched everything around. And I think one of the things that’s made us kind of slightly more resilient. Well, there are a couple of things. One, we are well planned, well governed. So we have reserves. We’ve got a very clear strategic focus. So we weren’t left wondering about what we need to do. We knew what we needed to do and and we knew how needed we were during this pandemic. So a couple of examples of that, you know, calls to our nurse service, shut up. Now, that’s not surprising. People weren’t able to get face to face appointments. Doctor surgeries, they were having their cancer treatment plans delayed. They were midway through screening processes that were being cancelled. So, unsurprisingly, you know, that that service saw an unprecedented demand, which makes you feel very useful and makes you know that you’re kind of you know, you’re doing the right thing. And then if this pandemic has taught us anything, it really, really should have taught us that we need to invest in prevention. You know, prevention is better than cure. We need to keep ourselves well. We need to move away from this whole notion of disease intervention being the biggest thing to invest in and actually invest in keeping people well and keeping people understanding their bodies. Ypu know, that’s the kind of mantra. Know your body, know when to get help.

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:08:53] Yeah, absolutely. And I think, like your service must have been an absolute lifeline for some people for some people who haven’t been able to see doctors and things like that. To move it on a little bit, you mentioned some of the things you are planning for there. And hopefully we are possibly getting to a point where probably not quite yet, but we hope for you. You’ll be able to do those in the not too distant. So, as we see, restrictions now are being gradually lifted. How are things looking for you now? Do you think you’ll be able to bring back any of those events that you putting or are you still adapting slightly to fit in with current measures?

ATHENA LAMNISOS [00:09:31] We’re still cautiously adapting. I mean, it was early today. The Great North Run got cancelled, which is a really tough news. And what we’re finding is that later on down the year, we were thinking that everything would be sort of back into events like, we we’re thinking that things would be sort of back to normal in the autumn. But actually, that is not looking like it’s going to happen or will happen in a very different way. So we replanned everything, so that it could work virtually as well as face to face. And what is good is that health services are slowly creeping back to normal. So appointments are coming in, face to face as well as continuing online. And I think we’ve got to remember that there could be some real silver linings from quite a lot of things that have made us work differently as part of the pandemic. Everyone talks quite a lot about the difference. And, you know, working from home, working more flexibly, etc., but there’s also the issue that, you know, prior to February, online appointments with GPs and consultants were unheard of. Now, that isn’t the case anymore. You know, we have a situation where a lot of health appointments are going ahead online. And I think in no, not in all cases, obviously, but in some cases that will work for the patients and clinicians, which is a very good thing. We’ve also got the issue that we’ve you know, we can’t move too quickly. What we have got to do, and particularly as a cancer charity what we’ve got to do is put people’s health first. So we can’t move too fast, no matter how much we might want to go around guessing events back up and running.

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:11:32] Yeah, absolutely. And so, of course you mentioned earlier on, and you’ve seen increased close to your service and how, what has the response been like for you? That sounds like some really positive things for you that obviously you have had to cancel events, you have had to move things online. What things, what are your perceptions to that?

ATHENA LAMNISOS [00:11:56] Well, we did for the first time, we did an actual run, which people did individually rather than as, you know, part of a group, as you normally would. So if during Get Lippy and we organized that about 4 weeks notice. And what was really interesting about that was it immediately kind of built a sense of community. We used, we’re using methods that we really hadn’t much experience or perform like creating strata communities. And that’s been really, really positive. I think that, I think the people get it, you know. They want to support, and they do partially want something else to think about, you know. COVID, you know, cancer doesn’t stop for COVID. And in, you know, life needs to go on. So I think there’s been quite a high level of kind of interest and engagement with the kind of, you know, provider that people are obviously really worried about their jobs, really worried about the economy. And we’re going to be looking at a very different set of donors, I think, coming out of that. But in many ways, it’s too early to tell what the impact is going to be. And it’s going to be very different for different kinds of charities. And, you know, you we’ve seen charities might suspect the same as is the case with business, where some charities have sought to really diversify what they do, either because there are funding opportunities and diversifying or because they’ve seen a need or an opportunity. I think, you know, for us, I think our focus is so that what it’s done is really enabled us to, you know, double down on our mission as it were, and be really clear that we’re doing the right thing.

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:13:42] Yeah, definitely. Do you think? And obviously where we’ve had to move online, things aren’t happening physically. And obviously Eve Appeal support such important different types of cancer that we don’t know about or that always ashamed or embarrassed to talk about. Do you think this has got people talking?

ATHENA LAMNISOS [00:14:02]  I hope it’s got them thinking about their health. I think that there’s quite a bit of evidence show that. I think another thing that it has done has got and this is, you know, I mean, who would have predicted where we would be or all of the debates that have been over the last couple of weeks about racism, racial inequality, trans rights, etc. and I think that what COVID has done has really shown that health does not respect boundaries, you know. It’s really shown a quite a helpful light in some ways on health inequalities, for example. Because this is no surprise to us that some audiences are disproportionately impacted by COVID and they are dying of COVID in high numbers. There are lots of reasons for that and you see that across all health issues and people have not looked hard enough at that and they haven’t targeted patient hard enough at those groups. They haven’t tried to listen to those groups about how they want to receive information and how the messages land with them. And we come across a lot in gynecological health. So the issues that trans men face when going for cervical screening, for example. The cultural issues that women who are affected by FGM, female genital mutilation, for example. The cultural barriers around, you know, being called to an appointment that’s talking about cervical screening and what that might mean. You know, there are so many different issues there that we really need to look at. And what’s been quite helpful, actually, is shining a light on those. And let’s just hope we use this opportunity to really move forward and include everyone in that discussion around health.

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:16:03] Yeah, definitely. Absolutely. We obviously offline, we’ve had different discussions around different things. What you’re doing and getting the message out there, like bringing in those different communities and helping them to understand and realize the risk of these houses. But also, but how do you prevent them and where to get some report and things like that. So earlier on you mentioned a Cervical Cancer Screening Awareness Week. And part of the reason I brought you into the show today is you’ve obviously got a new series starting. So I love for you to give us a bit of insight behind that. What you guys in the team, what you doing obviously this week and moving forward?

ATHENA LAMNISOS [00:16:51] So, we made the decision to launch this new, this new live series. And it’s been something that we’ve been thinking about for a long time in relation to Ask Eve. Because people find it so valuable having face-to-face time with specialists. And it enables them to ask questions in a different way and to really kind of get to understand a topic. And we’ve been thinking about different formats for that. And partly the success of running events online, I suppose, it’s another opportunity that came out of COVID and having to work differently. With how we could do that really quite easily and really have very good and fruitful discussions that reach a large group of people. So we wanted to, we wanted to strike a chord with what’s the way people approach that service. And also the way that people approach that reproductive health generally. And we’ve called the series something which really resonates. And it’s been incredible, actually, since we’ve only just started doing the promotion for the first episode, which is tomorrow. Just the called that is striking is incredible. So we’ve called the series Probably Nothing. And the reason we called it Probably Nothing is because nearly every call or email that we get starts with something that basically you saw someone putting themselves down or most about their health. Say this is probably nothing but, you know, and then they’ll go on to talk about something which may not be cancer, but always best to roll cancer out, always best to get help if you’re worrying about something. So the series is called Probably Nothing, because your health is everything and it’s going to be a weekly series with 6 o’clock on every Tuesday with someone from on our nurse service, Karen Hopes. Who coordinates the service and is also a young woman who was affected by cervical cancer. So she’s very kind of knowledgeable on both sides and very empathetic and then with an expert. So that might be a gynecologist. It might be someone who’s a geneticist. It might be a GP. It might be another woman affected. A whole range of peoples talk about different issues. If you go to our website, you can get a full rundown of the kinds of issues that we’re going to be focusing on. Although we will be starting with questions that come into us. So it’ll start with you know, with you. So that’s the kind of series. And yeah, we’re really excited about that. And then we’re launching this week because of Cervical Screening Awareness Week. So certainly there are not many cancers where there’s an effective screening test. And what’s important about the cervical screening test is not that it picks up cancer, it picks up pre-cancer. So when you’re going through screening, it’s looking for pre-cancerous cells that may become and develop into cancer. And so it’s intervening at that very early stage is stopping cancer and where at a real low in terms of attendance for screening. And that’s for a whole range of reasons. Lots of the people who don’t tend to screening or in particular grief. So we’ve talked about some of those, but also younger women are not attending in large numbers. So about a third of women under the age of 35 are non-attendance, which is really worrying. Lots of older women aren’t attending. So that’s sort of 45 to 55 age group, we’ve seen a drop there. And that’s something we really want to address. So celebrating, screening, encouraging and supporting women to going to screening. And understanding isn’t always an easy test. It’s not always, you know, something that only takes 5 minutes, I mean, you know. Yes. For many people, it does only take 5 minutes and it’s only a bit. But, you know, there are lots of things that you can do to make it easier. And one of those is arm yourself with information about what you can ask for, like a smaller speculum, a friend to come with you. Clearly not at the moment, but, you know, to talk to the nurse beforehand about the kind of equipment they’re going to be using. And to discuss any fears that you have so that you’ve got it all kind of outback, you know to… We tell women if they’re really worried about it, they can ask if they can help guide the speculum in themselves, for example, which gives you an element of control. So it’s a very, very important thing to encourage people to go for screening. And it’s something that we really want to facilitate. So tomorrow’s episode, Probably Nothing is going to be about particular concerns about going for screenings. So I’m you know, that it’s starting with a number of questions that we’ve had in recently, which have been around the grounds of, you know, I’ve been called for screening and I know it’s probably okay, but I’m really worried about going. And we’re specifically looking at this week is highlighting different groups who have particular barriers to screening. So black women, Southeast Asian women, the trans community, and really looking at how we can support them with some helpful messages and information.

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:22:31] Thank you, Athena. That’s great. I think it’s obviously a really important topic. Anyway, regardless of the circumstances and those are at the moment to where people may be more afraid or they’re scared of going to appointments.

ATHENA LAMNISOS [00:22:44] Where it had appointments cancelled and then it’s looking and encouraging people to rebook and to re-engage with.

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:22:51] Yeah, absolutely. But now we need to let you go sitting and just to finish up, just like from a personal perspective, how is this current situation change things for you? How do you found it, sort of running the charity, but then also on the personal side too?

ATHENA LAMNISOS [00:23:10] Well, I find it really difficult not being face to face with team and not having any face to face meetings. I do find that, you know, I miss this. I really miss that kind of contact. On a personal level, I’ve got 4 grown up children, and everyone and I have 2 dogs… so it’s kind of less isolating and more living in a commune around here. So, you know, Wi-Fi is an issue and never relay on technology. I find it quite easy to be productive. I find it really difficult to switch off from work. It’s just kind of all night checking things and on every device, which is really hard. But I think the you know, it’s real kind of onwards for us. We know that we’ve got a really important job to do and we know what we’ve got to do. And it’s making sure we can drive the funds, drive the awareness to, you know, to keep things going. And then hopefully, I really am hopeful that we’ll be in a position where, you know, we’ll be actually able to see human beings shake hands and hug people by the end of the year. I do find the kind of endlessness of it quite difficult. But on the other hand, I’m in no rush to put myself at risk, my family at risk, or certainly any of the people that we work with and their loved ones at risk. We work with people who are in shielded groups, and it’s really important that safety comes first.

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:24:43] Yeah, absolutely, completely agree with you. Thank you so much for joining me today. Obviously, you’ve got a really important message to get out there. And let the work you’ve done already has been really useful I’m sure to many. Thank you for joining me again.

ATHENA LAMNISOS [00:24:59] Thank you Nicky. Have a great rest of the day.

NICKY PENNYCOOK [00:25:01] And you. That was Athena from the Eve Appeal, talking to us about how they’re finding things as charity at the moment and all the different things that they’re obviously doing to help raise awareness around those 5 different cancers. That’s it for today. Thanks for joining me. If you yourself are interested in being an Andy Show guest or appearing on many of the shows. You can get in touch by our website, which is or for our social media channels and just such Disruptive Live. Thank you. And we’ll see you next week. Um next week? Um, tomorrow.