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Hannah Dines on going public with her labia surgery: ‘It started a big conversation’

The Paralympic cyclist wrote about the damage the sport had caused her. The article caused an outcry, others with similar experiences contacted her – and manufacturers finally began designing saddles for women

The day after I wrote in the Guardian about how my life as a female cyclist, and Paralympian, led to me having reconstructive surgery of my vulva – all because saddles are not designed for women – a book arrived in the post. It was The Vagina Bible by Dr Jen Gunter. It was a gift from my mum, who had read the searing details about my labial surgery. She has always had a good sense of humour.

The response from other people was overwhelming. That is the thing when you share – people share back. When the first professional cyclist contacted me to tell me she had gone through the same thing, the relief was so profound that I cried. I can now say with certainty that there are other people like me who, due to the wrong kind of pressure, experienced a cycle of chronic inflammation and swelling. These are people for whom cycling is as necessary to life as breathing and they face an impossible dilemma.

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