Follow me on Twitter: @janemcintyre12



I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Breast cancer risk? You tell me....

My mum , Jeannie Morris

So-another week ; another debate about breast screening, and whether it causes more harm than good.

An independent review into the value of mammograms  reportedly showed that for every life saved, three women had treatment for a cancer which would never have been fatal.

That treatment might be radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery; all with their own side effects.

More information for women will now be made available apparently; to help them make an informed choice. The national cancer director, Professor Sir Mike Richards is quoted as saying this issue has become an area of `high controversy`.

You bet your life it has, Professor.

But should I bet attempting to make my own decision about the course of treatment I should have, if a little undiscovered planet is spotted in that galaxy of stars on the radiologist`s screen?

The answer is--I don`t know. It`s like the heating engineer telling me my boiler might last another year; might not. But with a £500 overhaul.....I`ll definitely stay cosy. Or a car mechanic offering me a temporary fix,or a brand new engine to be on the safe side. Who knows?

But as far as breast cancer goes; I know too much. Mum was one of six sisters. Four of them developed breast cancer; three, including mum, died from it. Each was given the facts, and made decisions about their treatment as best they could.

The two eldest had the recommended mastectomies. One died, one went on to have a second mastectomy and has survived into her eighties.

The youngest of the six sisters watched it move through the family, and opted for a double mastectomy and reconstruction; a course of action a cousin of mine has chosen as well.

Mum wasn`t on a screening programme--she spotted her own cancerous lump at the age of 48--weeks before she was due to marry a man whose first wife had died...from breast cancer. She had her own decisions to make about her treatment, and even whether she should go ahead with the wedding. She opted for minor surgery and radiotherapy; and the wedding. Not the mastectomy that doctors suggested would have been a safer course of action.Was she right?

You can only give patients advice and ultimately leave the decision to them. I don`t doubt that what her husband-to-be had gone through, swayed her decision. But did it kill her? Should she have gone for more radical surgery to try and eliminate the risk? They had seven years together before the cancer really took an aggressive turn, went on the march, and despite every possible form of treatment available, included the mastectomy she`d tried to avoid, mum died .

My family history means I was lucky enough to be offered a place, some years ago on a clinical trial which compares mammography with MRI scanning. And then to be offered annual screening.

And then suddenly, we were talking about my generation. Last year`s scan spotted a little blip on the radar; a condition called Ductal Carcinoma in Situ. I tried to focus on the `stuck in a duct` bit, rather than that `carcinoma` word, which no one wants to hear. I had surgery to remove the affected area and some tissue around it. Then there were three weeks of intensive radiotherapy; which for the most part involved me sprinting in and out of the treatment centre in running gear and trainers. My brain told me I was *fit*; so I shouldn`t be there. The staff were brilliant. I was, compared to many waiting for treatment, completely blessed, but I hated every second and couldn`t bear to meet anyone`s eye, wearing shades most days in the waiting room, and flinching when someone called out my name. I kept the treatment a secret from all but my closest friends and colleagues. That meant carrying on working full time as a breakfast show producer, getting up at 3.30 am.

After it was over, with just a three inch scar and some tiredness, all I could feel was immense relief and good fortune: it was a high grade `blip` caught before it had invaded the surrounding tissues--at which point, apparently, I would have been advised to have a mastectomy. Would I have gone ahead with the surgery? I truly don`t know.

I know plenty of women whose cancers were found early, and who are quite sure they owe their lives to screening, and in some cases to the treatment that followed. Cancer charities seem to be recommending that you go ahead with screening if you`re called for a mammogram under the national programme.

And then, increasingly, you`ll have to make your own decision about anything they find. If you`re waiting for an incisive,well considered conclusion to all this--I don`t have one.

If the oncologist I`m booked to see in a couple of weeks,or any other doctor in the future finds something wrong with me, I want to be treated like the intelligent human being I am, to weigh up the options and statistics, and help shape the events that follow.

But --and excuse me for sounding weak here--a part of me still wants to say you know what? You`re the one in the white coat. I`m crap at stats. I truly have no idea. Please decide for me.

Friday 26 October 2012

In other news....allow yourself a smile.

In the papers. On the air. All over the screen. And maybe in your life. Achingly sad and disturbing news. It`ll always be there, and the day it stops affecting you is the day you`ve lost all compassion.

But if you move your head a half turn ... jewels that keep on shining in your life: or the people you meet, the places you go...glint a little, catch your eye...and give you a smile.

I really hope you`ve had some of those moments this week. Just for the hell of are mine:

--Seeing our eldest daughter collect her degree. And realising I was holding my breath with anxiety as she headed for the stage, just as I`d done in her first school nativity with a home made tinsel halo wound precariously round her head. This time, the stakes were higher. And so was the mortar board. Way higher. Perched less than securely on silky hair. The slippy graduation gown resting lightly on her shoulders was actually hiding a backless dress *for later*. Would it stay, or would it go now....Oh...and the steps to the stage had to be negotiated in four inch stilettos. Yeh, but like the 2:1 BA Hons...she did it; and left the amazingly uplifting ceremony at Greenwich University with hundreds more young graduates and their families, beaming, and brimming with pride.

--Watching our youngest daughter share that pride at her sister`s achievements; and the thrill of being part of her big day.Then a day later, hearing her on the phone bubbling with excitement about the part she`d got, after a string of tough auditions and callbacks, for her college show.

--Standing beside St Paul`s Cathedral this week, in total awe as ever at its beauty, marvelling at how Sir Christopher Wren and the hundreds of men involved in its construction in the late 1600s ever achieved it.   Then noticing the sign for the old Roman route of Watling Street over the road, and knowing that if I followed its path`d more or less get me home to Shropshire.

--Listening politely to the beauty counter assistant trying to flog me a pot of face cream containing *actual diamonds* for £80; happy that mine`s a fiver from Aldi.

--Getting whistled at in Greenwich Market (face cream must be working, then?!)

--Seeing a train conductor called John on Virgin`s 1343 from Euston yesterday bothering to stop and say hello to every passenger. And smiling.

--Hearing the ticket seller at Greenwich station say he loved my purse, but adding "not that I`m camp or nuffink"..!

--Battling through driving rain and peasouper fog in France late on Saturday night with a teasingly unreliable Satnav to find dear friends had turned on the lights and heating at my destination for my arrival--and had left a big bag of walnuts on the kitchen table too.

--Back in England, finding there was more fog on my way home up the M40. Cheered hugely by the sight of  a tiny Fiat inching past with a registration plate which included the word *Yay* !

--Sitting at the kitchen table with coffee and toast this morning with a million things to do, but all the time in the world to do them.

Monday 15 October 2012

Stop, oh yeah, wait a minute Mr Postman...

....bill, leaflet,leaflet,flyer, bill.

Is that IT?

Today`s post.

It arrived at 1.30 pm, and contained only demands for cash...and a clutch of junk mail. The postman didn`t even ring twice. (There`s no doorbell, to be fair...)

Anyway, I`d been meaning to register with the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) for ages. It`s the organisation which says it can stop you getting junk mail .We get way too much. And it goes, (all of it...) unread, into the recycling bin. Pointless.

So I attempted to register online. Maybe you`ve tried it. You can add the names of up to five people who live at your place. I got to the fourth, and tried to move to the next page. It told me I`d added something that wasn`t `a valid name`. 

Really? Frustrated, I had another bash. I *even* tried to spell my daughter`s name the `French` way. Rien. Maybe it was the Mc in McIntyre baffling the system? That Celtic mix of upper and lower case, all in one surname? Nope. Wouldn`t let me proceed. I know: maybe the confusion of more than one surname daring to live under one roof? I had no witnesses; no cake, no ring, no junk mail shredded into confetti...but I did the decent thing, and married myself off. Still nothing. Our names were `not valid`.

Irritated; I called the `helpline` number listed on the website. I got through to a lady robot, who suggested that I punch in the names of family members, using my telephone keypad. Fiddly. No thanks. I`ll follow the website`s intoxicating promise of talking to `a live agent`.   

Meekly, I joined the queue. No irritating music either. BUT HANG ON....!!! They then repeat the automated message about all their `consumer executives` being busy, again and again and again. Yep, I could have put the phone down. But I just had to see what happened. The message happened. Twenty more times, in quick succession. Then...guess what? The nice lady said `goodbye`...and disconnected my call.

Oh dear, MPS. As a key customer organisation set up to help people reduce the amount of junk mail they get every day...and the amount of waste that family then has to recycle...sorry...but today? You were  rubbish.

 "Goodbye" :)

ps, Maybe you`ve had more luck? I`d love to hear how you got on...or how you manage your own junkmail!

Wednesday 10 October 2012

It`s Chocolate Week.Try another chunk

I love it and I hate it. If I taste even the tiniest corner, I have to finish the whole damn slab. Yep, even if it`s a family sized stonker. The kind the health police have now told chocolate companies to label as *IDEAL FOR SHARING*.Get lost. Fat chance.

I once shared an attic flat at the top of an old mansion in Chislehurst with a wonderful girl called Anita. Because a couple of the rooms were Toblerone shaped;chocolate (aswell as men) was on our minds a lot of the time. Mine (chocolate bars...not blokes...but actually...) would arrive in a rush; the result of a quick dash to the garage and a sprint up three flights of stairs to work off what was to follow. In,slam door; frenzied ripping of wrappers; scoffed. Game over.

Anita, though, would unwrap hers slowly and seductively.... teasingly breaking off just a square...then maybe another...then leaving the rest of it seminaked ; peeping through the folded back wrapper...tempting anyone (I was her only flatmate) who might glance into `her` cupboard to check out the tomato puree situation. In her mind, it was there as a little treat for herself the next night. She soon learnt that was a bad idea. Finders, keepers. You see it; you eat it. Fact.

I`ve tried the completely calorie free variety too--you know--the bar you munch in the car all alone? Nobody sees you eat it if you drive fast enough ; so you get home..and the chocolate thing never really happened. Until the scales give your secret away. Been there, didn`t like it.

But I`m staying strong! It`s been tough. I would, frankly, kill for one of Julia Wenlock`s chocolate covered honeycomb bars today, or virtually anything she produces at her Shrewsbury based business, (she`s on Twitter, too, at @TootSweetsShrew ...go my share...!) but once I know the story.These days, the bathroom scales are making me smile, and that`s the way it`s going to stay .Happy chocolate chomping if that`s what you`re up to today :) And happy chocolate week to Julia and everyone else whose beautiful creations tempt and delight us.

Monday 8 October 2012

Bad experience? Just press delete.

How far back can you remember?

I can still feel the sun beating down on me in the garden behind our flats in Ealing, one of a crowd of children spending endless, happy days dreaming up games and shouting ourselves hoarse. My friend Rosalyn taught me how to do a handstand, and,skill mastered, I then spent that entire, sweltering afternoon perfecting the technique before staggering giddy and sunburnt back up the stone steps to our place on the top floor when Mum called us back in for tea.

That November in the same garden, doubtless inspired by those `light up the sky with Standard Fireworks` adverts,all of the families in the flats held their first Guy Fawkes night. The dads, full of beer and bravado, set rockets and bangers firing off at all angles, while mums with pinnies over their coats handed out hotdogs and sparklers to the children, beside the towering inferno that was our shared bonfire. Even though my face was burning from the heat of it, I stayed rooted to the spot. I was slightly fazed by the Guy`s ghoulish leer--right at me--but also too scared to wave the fizzing wand around in the night air like the other kids, in case it set my mittens on fire.It was all terrifyingly wonderful.

You want to remember times like that, don`t you, and have an automatic delete mechanism for the days which leave you feeling lost or lonely: bitter or bereaved.

I started thinking about the power of memory today after being reminded that it`s the 60th anniversary of Britain`s worst peacetime rail disaster today--at Harrow and Wealdstone. One hundred and twelve people died in that three train smash.

Today, survivors and local people have been back to the spot to stand in silence to remember those who got caught up in the horror.

I`ve just turned the house upside down to try and find a newspaper cutting from that day.It was either the London Evening News or the Standard, or maybe the Evening Star. We saved it because there`s a mugshot of dad as a very young PC, looking shattered. He was one of a vast army of people rushed to the scene to help. He`d been crawling through mineshafts at his local pit at 14, and so volunteered to crawl under a mangled train carriage in the tightest, darkest, most desperate of spaces to help those trapped He held their hands, offered words of comfort and in some cases, shots of morphine. He`d then been part of the gang who used their own broad shoulders and brute strength to raise the carriage a few precious inches to try and drag the casualties out.

Horrific memories.Sometimes the darkest of days, like the Harrow crash, have to be remembered and then investigated so that lessons can be learned. Often,thankfully,there`s now help for people whose traumas linger,and blight their later lives.

Dad`s in his eighties now, with a brain dulled by dementia.He`s sleeping so much, and often bewildered by simple tasks. I`ve written before about how we can still share a laugh and a memory sometimes if one flashes back into his mind. That young, heroic PC went on to be a royal bodyguard, travelling the world, Katmandu, Kuala Lumpur, San Francisco,Canada, Italy,Sydney, Canberra, Mustique, staying in glittering palaces and learning how the other half live. It`s those scenes I hope he can remember. And those Ealing bonfires.

But if his patchy,fading memory has been cruel enough to retain the images it logged at Harrow, sixty years ago today,I hope it can also still register the pride his family feel today, looking back. I`ll phone him later, just to be sure he knows.


Kerry ‏@kerry_pt3
@janemcintyre12 :) your blogs alway bring a warmth with them x

andy richardson ‏@andyrichardson1
@janemcintyre12 @BeBoldPR just don't get her started on chocolate

33m andy richardson ‏@andyrichardson1
@BeBoldPR @janemcintyre12 her blogs are good. almost as good as those by mr w

38m Be Bold PR ‏@BeBoldPR
@janemcintyre12 you're welcome. Always look forward to reading your blogs!

Thursday 4 October 2012

600 on my sofa: Loving Twitter the debate`s raging again. This time in my local paper, The Shropshire Star. Is Twitter a good thing or bad? A waste of your time and everyone else`s--or a fresh, effective way of linking up with friends old and new?

Well--it can be both. But if it`s the former, then as the song`s my `favourite waste of time`.

As a radio journalist and programme producer, a tweet was a fantastic way of reinforcing news you`d just broadcast, researching a story idea,or gauging opinion on all kinds of local issues--and a great way for people with a story to reach you, too.

That`s how Twitter started for me.

But then one weekend, my daughter and  I had a hankering to escape for a couple of days to the Welsh coast; breathe some sea air. I mentioned on Twitter that we needed some ideas for last minute accommodation--fast. They came; and we booked, and had a great time. One of the tweets that weekend was from someone on the Lleyn Peninsular, offering us a place to stay in her home . We`d never met ! And although it was further than we wanted to go, Nita became a close friend.

In fact when she went into labour ....a small group of Twitter friends who, again, had never met....ended up `virtually` pacing up and down the hospital corridor as the hours ticked by. We kept each other updated, sent our love, and messages of support and celebrated when beautiful Livia entered the world.

Livia`s 18 months old now, and was here at my place the other day, sorting fir cones into neat groups for me. It kept her busy while her parents were in the other room, having a holiday nightmare (no ferries....).They dropped in mid way to Portsmouth because they desperately needed a computer (and coffee). I`ve stayed at their place too; a stone`s throw from the beach. We had fish and chips and much better coffee than they ever get here. We`d never have met without Twitter.

The people you meet on Twitter...!

Nita`s one of  a whole bunch of new friends on Twitter, some of whom I`ve met, and some I`ll probably never see in `real ` life, but who`ll share a joke, an idea for a movie, or a moan about what`s bugging them.

Take the Olympics--and our desperate search for tickets. Stuart got plenty..but also tipped me off on Twitter every time more were released. And although we never made it to London, it was still glorious to watch on television, and even better with six hundred `friends` on my sofa, reminding me that the 100 metres was on in five minutes on the other side. I choose not to follow celebrities--but followed team GB and just couldn`t help tweeting good luck to Martyn Rooney. (To get a tweet back from him after the games encouraging me on my morning mile was just amazing. Yeh, I`ve kept that one !)

My sister won`t tweet. She doesn`t get it. I`ve tried to explain that it`s sometimes the virtual equivalent of a party. The room`s full. There are loads of separate conversations going on. And you can move around the room, opting to stop and chat, or move on. You can share wine, dance, shout or sing. And leave whenever you please.

`You`re going for coffee with someone you met on TWITTER?` she asked, aghast, some months ago. And more recently...``re going to GLASTONbury? With someone you`ve never MET? Oh tell me you didn`t meet them on Twitter too? ` Yep, big sis. I did.

That`s the thing with Twitter. Fast, intimate, friendly , funny. A great place to meet people, help people, and learn about people. And always there when you need a smile.


 I love your blog. It's the only blog i've actually found enjoyable.

Dave Matthews@Delta79
want to read a great blog, you will find one here written by

 nice. i will buy you ice cream.

    and for pictures of children in shopping bags...

    Heh! Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it......

 love your take on twitter :) x

 Loved your latest blog. Summed this - and us on it - up perfectly for me!
 thank you very much. A pedant`s praise is praise indeed.
 Not sure what's come over me. Won't happen again!

 a virtual room, I like that x Anyway, I'll be in the kitchen, grazing, if I'm required. Probably* with a beer. *definitely

 and 4 others retweeted you
So how much do YOU love Twitter?!