Interview with Jenny Halpern Prince, Co-Founder & Chair of The Lady Garden Foundation

by | Jun 5, 2020

We are proud to now have amazing charity, The Lady Garden Foundation join the British Beauty Council as an affiliate and with that, wanted to feature the charity’s Co-Founder and Chair, Jenny Halpern Prince on Beauty Bytes.

The Lady Garden Foundation is a national women’s health charity, raising awareness and funding for gynaecological health. Launched in 2014, Jenny and the team have funded groundbreaking research into the treatment of the various gynae cancers. On top of creating and driving this incredible initiative, Jenny is Founder & CEO of Halpern PR. We discussed life in lockdown, how to address gynaecological concerns, how The Lady Garden Foundation is coping during the pandemic and what inspires Jenny to keep driving its important mission forwards.

  1. How are you coping with isolation and what have you been doing to keep your body and mind feeling healthy during lockdown?

I’m doing well, it’s been a corona coaster for sure, but my family and I are all good. We have three children including a four-year-old and a golden retriever so a very full house with a hectic schedule for two full-time working parents and three school agendas to contend with, but magically we’re making it work. I’m certainly not considering a move into teaching, put it that way! Physically running around after them keeps me active, but I’m a fitness fan so I was lucky enough to get a Peloton bike at the start of lockdown and those daily classes give me a welcome respite from the rest of the madness. Add dog walks in to all that as well and I’ve definitely made the most of the outdoor exercise rules too!

Mentally I think that lockdown has taught me to really understand my own brain a little deeper. It’s okay to have days where you feel off-track mentally for no obvious reason, and to take that pressure off by understanding that has made such a difference. I operate at 110 miles-an-hour and this period of down time in the sense of events and social activities has given me time to really allow myself to slow down in a mental sense. I’ll never operate at a slow pace, but I’m definitely happier to enjoy moments of calm for what they are.

  1. As a result of the NHS having to prioritise resources during the pandemic, cervical screening has been paused in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and in many cases postponed in England. What do you advise for those worried about being unable to schedule their screening right now, or who are potentially overdue a screening?

Having your screening postponed can be very daunting. In England it varies from clinic to clinic and the resources they have available. Keep in touch with your local GP with regard to when they may be able to see you if they haven’t updated you automatically. The good news is there seems to be no delay in receiving your results once you have had your screening.

The smear test is to check the health of your cervix. Women from 25 and up are advised to have a screening every three years and the cells that are taken during the smear, using a small brush, will be tested for HPV. This is the name for a very common group of viruses and some types of HPV in the cervix can cause abnormal changes in the cells that can sometimes turn into cancer. However, the majority of people have clear results. For those that do not, HPV at a “high risk” level can take years to develop into cervical abnormalities, so try not to worry if your screening has been delayed by a few months. It would be rare for this to cause any dangerous issues and most cases of HPV go away by themselves. However, as I said, keep in touch with your doctor and know that they will get you in to have your appointment as soon as they are able to and it is safe for you to do so.

  1. Arguably, many women know what to look for when it comes to checking their breasts for potential abnormalities, but given that there are five gynaecological cancers, it can be quite overwhelming to know where to begin when it comes to keeping oneself in check. What does Lady Garden recommend to women to maintain their gynaecological self-care routines?

Each of the five gynaecological cancers can have different symptoms, so it’s not easy to remember them all. It’s about really knowing your own body and having faith that you know when something doesn’t feel right. There is also a lot of false information out there about what we as women should do to look after our vulvas and vaginas. Should you remove hair, should you wash yourself internally, should you spray deodorant down there? The answer invariably is no to most of those.

Hair removal for example is not necessary for gynae health but is down to personal preference. The vagina is self-cleaning and maintains its own natural pH levels so again you shouldn’t mess with that by washing unnecessarily. Don’t get me started on the myths about sticking parsley or jade eggs up there. So much of it is nonsense and unfortunately preys on the lack of understanding of women. This is part of the reason we started The Lady Garden Foundation, to get women talking about their intimate areas and to dispel the taboo around it. It’s okay to say vagina out loud, it’s not a dirty word and we shouldn’t be embarrassed!

This is something I really try to instil in my two young daughters. Talking to friends, family, colleagues, whoever you want means more often than not you find others who have experienced something similar and may be able to put your mind at ease. For centuries women have been made to believe that we are dirty, that periods are not to be discussed and you shouldn’t talk about your vulva and vagina. But why? Penises are almost revered, why shouldn’t our vaginas be the same? Arguably, they go through a lot more and should be praised in the same way! I always think of that famous quote from Betty White:

“Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” She’s right, vaginas are amazing!

Going back to your own gynae health and cancer specifically, if you are worried about anything then look at our website where we talk about each of the five gynae cancers and the symptoms to look out for. Understanding these symptoms can save lives. If you have any concern whatsoever then book an appointment with your GP. Many GPs can offer a virtual appointment in lieu of one face to face if you are worried about travelling to your local doctors’ surgery. It is far better to get the reassurance and find out if there is anything more serious at play then to avoid the appointment and risk something developing.

(L-R) Mika Simmons, Chloe Delevingne, Jenny halpern Prince, Josephine Daniel and Tamara Beckwith attend the KX & KXU Lady Garden Run 2019 in aid of Silent No More Gynaecological Cancer Fund in Hyde Park on May 18, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

  1. Sadly right now, charities are suffering losses of income in the wake of the virus, but the work that Lady Garden does is so crucial. How is the charity managing the impact and in what ways can businesses and individuals who are keen to help, support your efforts at this time?

Like so many charities out there we have seen a huge decrease in our fundraising. Everyone across the country is donating to the NHS and causes directly linked to the front line and we completely understand that. However, we have been able to donate money to two front line related causes during this pandemic.

Firstly, we donated to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity’s emergency appeal. We have a long-standing relationship with The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and have to date donated over £1m to potentially life-saving research there. Their emergency appeal was set up in order to help support frontline staff as well as enabling remote patient consultations to prevent patients from leaving their homes unnecessarily. The Fighting Fund will ensure the hospital has the flexibility to respond to the crisis and be able to place the funding where it will provide the most benefit to patients and staff. So, to be able to give to this and make a difference is incredibly rewarding and it is thanks to the generosity of our very loyal Lady Gardeners out there!

Secondly, we have funded a project by a very special lady called Dr Susana Banerjee. She is the oncologist who led the trials that we funded at The Royal Marsden. Dr Banerjee is now leading a critical research study, calling on NHS staff to answer surveys about their wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis and we have funded this research project in full which will help establish a better understanding of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the wellbeing, resilience and burnout of NHS staff working in a cancer healthcare setting.

In terms of active fundraising, key events in our fundraising calendar have had to be cancelled or postponed which has had a massive effect on our plans, but what we can do at this time is keep up our awareness efforts. Fundraising is so important, but it goes hand in hand with the awareness aspect of what we do. We want to get women everywhere talking about their gynae health, ensure that everyone is aware of their own bodies and keeping the conversation going in order to help with earlier diagnoses, and ultimately save lives. This goes for the men around you too! Everyone has a mother, daughter, sister, aunt and so on. Gynae cancers affect everyone and cancer doesn’t stop for a lockdown unfortunately. Brand partnerships are key for us to increase this awareness further to those who perhaps haven’t heard about us and what we do. We’ve been very lucky to work with some incredible brands on our mission including Gucci, Cult Beauty, and Monsoon and we are always keen to talk to more people. So, if you want to know more about us and why what we are doing is so important then get in touch!

Tamara Beckwith and Jenny Halpern Prince at the Lady Garden Gala 2019. Pic Credit: Dave Benett

  1. What inspired you to create Lady Garden and what do you enjoy most from championing its mission?

A group of friends and I were talking back in 2014 about the ways we had all directly or indirectly been affected by a gynaecological cancer and we realised that there just wasn’t enough information out there. This sparked the creation of the Lady Garden Foundation. We co-founded the charity with the aim of fundraising £750k to fund a research project of Dr Banarjee’s, looking at personalised treatments for women with a gynae cancer. The research supported the discovery that a personalised treatment successful in other cancers could work for gynaecological patients and also to investigate if immunotherapy might be an option for women with gynaecological cancers.

As part of this funding we invested in the gynaecological cancer experts of the future by supporting four research fellows and also obtained consent from over 700 patients to use their blood and tumour samples, creating a precious resource for future research. The research findings are shared with the global cancer research community meaning we can hopefully make a difference globally. Our first campaign with Topshop, fronted by Cara Delevingne really thrust us into the arena. After we had hit that initial funding target we knew there was something in what we were doing, so we all agreed we had to keep going and raise as much money as we could to continue making a difference. In terms of who we are, well, the name says it all. Cancer is a scary word and a daunting prospect, so we deliberately went with an irreverent name so that we could try and take some of this fear away. Let’s find the humour in an otherwise concerning topic and show that it’s okay to laugh and most importantly, talk without fear.

I’m so proud of everything that we as the co-founders have achieved so far and can’t wait to see what the future may bring. Along with an expert team of powerful trustees including Dame Helena Morrissey, Annalisa Jenkins, Dr John Butler and Jennifer Emanuel, we are all incredibly determined to make the Lady Garden Foundation bigger and better and to change the face of women’s health. Knowing that we have already made such a difference spurs me on and when we speak with patients especially, it only cements my ambition to keep going. Yes, we have the fun events like our Gala and of course it’s nice to get dressed up and have a party, but the underlying reason for it all is to help us change the face of women’s health for not only us but for future generations. Cancer can do one as far as I am concerned, so join us and help us raise awareness and funding to fight it.

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