It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) and we are all being asked to #thinkpink, to #wearitpink, to purchase something pink, and to #coppafeel. While I believe wholeheartedly that we should be cancer symptom aware and we should all know our bodies and be cautious of any changes, I can’t bring myself to endorse the pink-ness of it all. I don’t know who thought up the pink connection, but I want to say that nothing about BC is pink and I know I’m not alone in hoping for a change in campaign. A smiley celebrity on an over-tight, low, cut, pink t-shirt is not breast cancer, BC is dark, it’s murky, it’s lonely, it’s terrifying and it’s painful; these aren’t pink things.
The saddest and most shocking thing about the ‘pink’ campaign though is that unscrupulous people are actually making money from the well-meaning and unsuspecting general public who are just trying to do a good thing. There are of course many reputable companies who sell all manner of pink tat and do give a donation to one of the more helpful BC charities, but before you purchase something this BCAM please do your homework, look at how much of a donation is actually being passed to the charity, and do look at how the charities spend your money – make sure it’s not all going on PR, salaries or into a ‘miscellaneous’ pot; check how much of your donation goes directly into helping people either through research into Primary Breast Cancer (PBC) but also into Secondary Breast Cancer (SBC) (which is also known as advanced or metastatic breast cancer and can not be cured, terrifyingly 1 in 3 cases of PBC will develop into SBC) which is chronically underfunded; or into a helpline so that we always have someone to talk to who will understand, or into the information packs that some charities produce which are utterly invaluable when first diagnosed. (I’ve posted a few suggestions at the end of the page.)
I don’t wish to preach or be on my soapbox but I have a new perspective this BCAM and I can see how blinded I have been previously, I’ve always thought I’d been supporting something but I now realise there are other ways to support that may be more effective than by buying random pink tat! (NB. It’s obviously not all tat, I just like to use the word tat, it gets used a lot in my house, usually by Ally ‘you’ve bought more horse tat?’)
Now the lecture is over, I’d like to tell you a little of why BC, for me, isn’t pink:
– I thought the worst moment of my life was when my first baby died, BC trumped this. The very worst moment of my life happens again every day now. Each morning I wake up and I realise that I may not see my darling Filly grow up, that she may not always have a mummy to kiss her bruised knees better or to rescue her bunnies from wherever she’s left them, it breaks my heart every single day. I am so very grateful for each second I spend with my family, 4 legged and 2 legged friends and I won’t allow these scary thoughts to ruin my day, in the same way I won’t let the fear of recurrence take over, but it’s not bloody easy. Fucking cancer took away my ability to dream about the future, now it’s always tinged with the thought of ‘but what if I’m not around’.
– Chemo isn’t pink, chemo to me was red and angry. Chemo’s job was to seek out the bad cells and to destroy them. Despite desperately trying to make chemo my friend it still well and truly jellyfished me, it left me with damaged and discoloured veins on my right hand, less hair, a compromised immune system, nerve damage in my hands and feet, weak finger nails. But despite all of these things and a good few more, I am glad that chemo is a beast, it was hard on my good cells but harder on my bad cells.
– Surgery isn’t pink. Surgery is frightening, surgery is bloody painful, and the results of that surgery will be with me forever. I am several months past surgery now and I am still in a good deal of pain most days, and I certainly don’t have the same strength or movement in my left arm and I’ve developed lymphoedema which is a chronic condition and means that when I exercise my hand and arm can swell up and I have to manually drain away the lymph fluid that has caused the swelling – its certainly not pretty and pink.
– In our house we all enjoy a bath, the en suite that Ally and I share doesn’t have any window coverings and the bathtub looks out over the woods and over Cranham Common which is a beautiful, relaxing view especially in the Autumn. We have all been known to jump in the bath together but since my operation I haven’t felt that I can do so with Filly, she’s going to question why mummy looks different and I just can’t bring myself to burden her with the answers to her questions. It’s beyond difficult to take the decision of when we tell Filly, do we want her to grow up knowing that mummy could get poorly again, or even that worst of all I could’ve passed on the breast cancer gene to her and what that means for her future. There’s no doubt that BC will be a dark cloud over us for the rest of our lives. I have hope that in Filly’s lifetime there will be breakthrough in research and she won’t have to grow up with these concerns, this is why fundraising for breast cancer charities is important and another reason why BCAM month is so vital.
– There are no positives to having breast cancer – believe me I’ve had people suggest that I’m ‘lucky’ as I have a new perspective on life and that BC is a ‘good one to get’, it makes me so very cross. No one that develops BC or any cancer is lucky and no cancer is good to have. You will know someone who has or has had cancer or has a close family member wth cancer, please don’t suggest to them that in any way it’s a good thing, it’s not. I say this because it can seem like it’s comforting to suggest and I’ve heard certain BC celebrity advocates utter such nonsense and it’s hugely demoralising and upsetting to the people going through the cancer. (It’s a bit like talking about someone’s battle with cancer – it is NOT a battle, but that’s a rant for another day!)
I hope that this doesn’t come across that I have something against BCAM and the pink campaigns, far from it, the vast majority come from a good place and it is a great way to bring BC to the forefront of people’s minds.
Primary breast cancer is treatable, 1 in 8 of us will develop breast cancer at some point in our lives, and a new person is diagnosed with breast cancer every 10 minutes in the UK. Despite this Breast Cancer Care suggest that a third of us still aren’t regularly checking our breasts, this is madness. It’s easy and takes seconds, give it a google there are countless websites on how to check if you aren’t sure; for goodness sake, just do it.
Breast Cancer Care is one of the charities that my family and I have used a great deal, and its one of the charities that Ally, my brother Neil, and I did our 50km ultra marathon for.
Breast Cancer Cares main aim is in supporting people with breast cancer, they have so much information on their website and there is always someone knowledgable and available at the end of a phone.
According to their 2016-2017 financial report, Breast Cancer Cares spending was as follows: Supporting people with breast cancer 52.8%, Fundraising 39.8%, Policy and research 4.7%, Other 2.7% (e.g.. overheads and admin etc)
It is possible to donate on their website, or via our ultra marathon sponsorship page.
3 other very worthwhile breast cancer charities are (in brief):
Breast Cancer Now: The UKs largest breast cancer charity involved in research. For every £1 donated, at least 50p will be spent purely on funding breast cancer research in the UK and Ireland; 10p will be spent on raising awareness of the disease; 30p will represent fundraising costs; and 10p goes on infrastructure costs.
Coppafeel!: Their aim is to spread awareness of breast cancer, especially in younger men and women. They spend 71.65% on their awareness work which includes their Boobette programs, University teams, awareness campaigns, work with GP surgeries, and more. They spend 13.2% on overheads, the remaining % is spent on the cost of generating funds.
Against Breast Cancer: They fund research into secondary breast cancer, their ambition is to develop a vaccine against breast cancer.
Many thanks to Sara at Ticking Off Breast Cancer for some of the financial info above.