Introducing Talk Peach, the new initiative saving Kiwi women
Tash Crosby has something important to say. Something that stems from a difficult personal experience. Surviving ovarian cancer has left her seriously concerned about the lack of public knowledge on the five main gynaecological cancers - a group of diseases which take the life, on average, of one New Zealand woman every 48 hours. She’s decided to do something about this, and it’s called Talk Peach: a new initiative to raise awareness of cervical, ovarian, vulval, vaginal and uterine cancer, upskill the public and health professionals on these killer diseases and empower women to take ownership of their gynaecological health.
“I’m doing this because I was one of the lucky ones” says Tash. “I was one of 15 percent of women in New Zealand caught at stage one of ovarian cancer - 85% are caught in the later stages where chances of survival are extremely low. It worries me that most women believe their three yearly cervical smear test will keep them safe, when in reality it only tests for one of the five gynaecological cancers. There is no screening tool for the other four, women MUST know the signs and act upon them.
Like many women with ovarian cancer, Tash’s diagnosis wasn’t straightforward and it took a lot of insistence on her part to be taken seriously. Once medical professionals realised what it was, treatment was fast and gruelling, including two operations and six months of chemo. At times it got quite lonely so she started doing some research and amassing a community of other sufferers all around the world to help her get through it. Once she recovered, she vowed to launch an organisation and a website with all the information and support she wishes she’d had at the time - plus information on early symptoms, to avoid women even getting to where she did in the first place
The website is now a reality - launching today. It’s taken 18 months but Tash is extremely pleased it’s finally out in the world. The first phase of Talk Peach is education on early symptoms - via campaigns, online and in women dominated workplaces. This will include education for health professionals. The second will be to provide a strong support network for those who have been diagnosed, including practical information and places to connect with others going through the same thing. The third phase will be advocating and lobbying for changes in policy. Tash has fundraised the whole project herself and taken on a board which includes Roanne Parker, also a recent ovarian cancer survivor and currently an Independent Director on the boards of New Zealand Lotteries Commission (Lotto NZ), MetService and Pulse Energy; and esteemed indigenous behavioural scientist and researcher and finalist in the prestigious New Zealander of the Year Awards held in February 2019 Dr Marewa Glover.
“Talk Peach is here to educate women on the early - often overlooked signs of these cancers and to help those who have been diagnosed, to ask the right questions, and advocate for themselves if they aren’t being listened to.” says Tash. “It’s important they know what to expect from a scan, what signs to look for, what questions to ask, and most of all to push for answers and not feel silly seeking medical advice Breast Cancer awareness is a great model to aspire to. It's taken some years, and hard work, but now talking about a mammogram or your boobs is totally commonplace. We need to start talking about vaginas and vulvas in the same way so we can save New Zealand women and their whanau the heartbreak of a late stage diagnosis.”