A Cut in the Brain
By Kate Orson
One woman's journey to understand sex and heal her body in the face of the medical establishment
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What do you know about the cervix? Maybe you have a vague idea that it’s involved in childbirth, and that it can become cancerous. Or perhaps you are already aware of its orgasmic nature.
Kate Orson learnt about the cervix the hard way, when a common medical procedure called LLETZ, which removes abnormal cells from the cervix, caused her to lose her sexual function.
Sex became painful. She lost her libido, and her ability to orgasm. She was too scared to go back to the doctor.
Twelve years later, still traumatised by what had happened, Kate found out that she was not alone. In an article, a woman named Asha wrote about experiencing the same problems, and also more intangible side effects to her creativity, her thinking, and her very perception of being a human being existing in a sensual world.
Kate and Asha, with the help of the American sexuality expert Dr. Irwin Goldstein, discovered that there are very few doctors who are aware of the up to date research about the cervix, and so they are cutting into a part of the body they do not understand. Could there be thousands more women, living in silence, and being told their symptoms are ‘all in your head'?
A Cut In The Brain is a memoir about discovering the truth about what lies behind gynaecology; that there has never been any full anatomy done of the female sexual organs, and every gynaecological procedure is a literal ‘stab in the dark'.
It’s about two women; one who runs from the medical system and tries to heal herself with alternative medicine, and another who stays to fight. It’s about the power of friendship to transcend the darkness of our sexist culture. It’s about the growing circle of women who are standing up to the harm caused by gynaecology.
This book is for anyone who has ever had a smear test, or who wants to support their partners and friends in a world where women’s health is still built upon an outdated patriarchal system. It’s also for those who’ve ever wondered if there’s something ‘more’ to sex.
- Large, handsome edition - 234x156 mm
- Hardback, high quality print
- 304 pages
- Cover design to be confirmed
- More levels and stretch goals to be announced!
Kate Orson is a writer, author, parent educator, and creative writing teacher. She began her writing career by studying a masters of Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow and loved writing short stories, often themed around sexuality. After the LLETZ procedure (for removing abnormal cells from the cervix), Kate was left physically harmed and emotionally traumatised and was unable to write fiction. She spent over a decade trying to heal and discover what happened to her body, mind, sex life, and creativity, after this common medical procedure.
Kate writes and teaches about parenting and published a book, Tears Heal: How to listen to our children. Her parenting work has been featured in The Guardian, The Week, Mother and Baby, and The Green Parent.
She also writes about health and wellbeing for magazines including Breathe, and Teen Breathe. Her articles about sex have been published on the website Kinkly.
Kate has a certificate in Creative Writing For Therapeutic Purposes, and she now works with Olivia Bryant, founder of the global movement, Self:Cervix. Together they created the Self:Cervix Recovery course, to help anyone with a cervix heal from medical trauma.
A Cut In The Brain
Prologue – Just A Few Cells
I was 25 years old when I got the letter to tell me that I had abnormal cells on my cervix. It came with a leaflet with all the possible causes; lifestyle issues such as smoking, and having a bad diet. It didn’t quite make sense to me.
I had the odd cigarette with a drink, and my diet wasn’t too bad, was it? No worse than anyone else's I knew who had a few drinks, or smoked occasionally. But as far as I knew they didn’t get called to clinics to have their cells checked out.
Maybe it would be nothing to worry about. I’d had abnormal cells before, when I was 17. At the time, opening the letter in my parents’ hallway, and reading those words, I assumed that I had cancer, and that my life was over. And yet, I didn’t tell my parents. I made a doctor's appointment, and was told that I didn’t have cancer, and in fact, there was nothing that needed to be done at all.
'Cells go abnormal and normal all the time,' said a friend who had studied biology. I couldn’t quite understand the point of them sending you a letter to say your cells were abnormal, freak you out that you had cancer, and then explain that everything was fine and that you didn’t need treatment. But that was how it seemed to work.
Now it was different. My cells, it turned out, had been abnormal for too long. I was due an appointment to look and see if further treatment was needed. The hospital - the Western Infirmary - was just down the road from the University of Glasgow where I was studying for a masters in Creative Writing. There was a sign with all these different departments I had never heard of, and I looked for that strange word, Colposcopy, and followed the arrow.
In a tiny cubicle I changed out of my clothes and into a hospital gown. Outside, I could hear the sound of older women chatting, their voices gravelly from years of smoking. They talked about which friend had breast cancer and which had just had a hysterectomy.
I couldn’t understand what I was doing here when I was only 25. What exactly was wrong with my body, my lifestyle, my cells? Why had they always been abnormal?
I hadn’t told anyone about any of this, not the abnormal cells or the fact that they now needed to be looked at. I was hoping that it would all just turn out to be nothing, that there would be no reason to tell.
In a room with no windows, the doctor was hunched on a stool overlooking the bed. I lay with my legs in stirrups as he used a microscope to peer into my vagina, and inspect my cervix. He told me that he needed to take a biopsy of my cells and then send them away to the laboratory to see if they’d have to be removed.
'Yes' he said. 'I’m almost 90% sure that these cells will need to be removed, but it’s a very small area, just a few cells. I could just do it now if you like.'
There was no worry or sympathy in his voice. Just a matter-of-fact medical tone. His words made me think there was nothing to worry about, although my mind was clinging onto the 10% chance that it was nothing.
'It’s a very simple, minor procedure,' he explained. 'We use local anaesthetic to freeze the area, and then burn off the abnormal cells. It just takes a few minutes.'
Was there some reason to hurry, I wondered? There was something about the scenario in this windowless room, the way he was looking at my cervix, his hunched back, and slightly greasy hair, barely stopping to glance up at me, that gave me the impression that he was running late.
'No, it’s okay.' I said. 'I’ll wait for the result.'
- 2nd March 2020 The Future Of My Crowdfunding Campaign
Image courtesy of Lulu Allison, Author of Salt Lick from Unbound
Last week my editor from Unbound contacted me to chat about my campaign. Since it had risen 2% since last October she recommended I take a month to have one last attempt at trying to get pledges or I should close the campaign.
It was a wake-up call. I'd been in crowdfunding denial, pushing this campaign to the back of my…18th October 2019 Why I didn’t choose to self-publish my book
Crowdfunding is slow. At first this was something that made me anxious, and I was filled with self doubt. Would I make it? Were people interested in the book? Then as the months went on, I began to see patterns. I saw that although the majority of people who funded the book were people I knew, there were a lot of people I didn’t know personally but had connected with online. I began to see that…2nd September 2019 Rewriting Your Sexual Self
Dear friends, and supporters of A Cut In The Brain,
Greetings from sunny Tuscany! This summer, I've spent relocating to Italy, so I haven't had much time to focus on crowdfunding, so I'm pleased that despite that, my campaign has slowly crept up to 18%. Still a long way to go, but I'm getting there, and am feeling so grateful to remind myself of all of you wonderful supporters who have already…8th June 2019 10% funded!
I’m excited to announce that I have reached my first milestone! I’m very happy to be here after less than two weeks crowdfunding. I have got such a buzz from seeing all your names on my supporter list, old friends, new friends, people I just know from facebook, and a few strangers too. It feels really good to know that many of you are pledging to support this book not just to support…
These people are helping to fund A Cut in the Brain.