OPINION: Survivors' stories offer big hope for breast cancer sufferers
- Credit: Submitted
Do you check your breasts?
Anything slightly frightening makes me want to hide which is stupid.
There really isn’t another word for it because catching breast cancer early gives the best possible prognosis.
I know this, so do you, yet lots of women (and men) are like me and stick their head in the sand.
Worse, however, is that many of us, when we do find something concerning, don’t do anything about that either, so fearful are we of the outcome.
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A simple check. Of the breasts. On a regular basis. And this could save your life!
I was invited to the celebratory 25th birthday party for Asda’s Tickled Pink campaign last week, an umbrella raising funds to be shared between the leading breast cancer charities and I found myself realising the sand needed my head popped from it.
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As I listened to the facts from the founders of the charities and the stories of some of the women living with the disease, it was a sobering moment over a glass of fizz, to realise I’ve been making a big mistake ignoring the possibilities out of fear.
Surrounded by women who had all come together to do one thing, raise awareness of the importance in checking your breasts and raise money to help fund treatments, investigations, research and more, I vowed to do better, check myself and encourage others to do the same.
It was a wonderful evening filled with positive and powerful energy.
I was told to not only check my breasts but check my mentality surrounding why I don’t like to think about it.
It was one of those moments where, like planning to write a will or buying life insurance, I realised as a grown adult and more importantly as a mother, this was something I had to do.
The connotations and unpleasant thoughts it invokes are far more palatable than the potential consequences if ignored. So, I have been thinking about it seriously, knowing I will do better going forwards. For myself and for my daughters and friends.
At the party, and it was a party, for there is much to be celebrated about a quarter of a century’s worth of fund raising with over £71m being the current figure collected (it means more research into how to eradicate this killer disease, more support for those affected and more efforts made for educating the community on how to be breast aware), we were also woken up a bit by hearing some pretty sad facts.
Every ten minutes in the UK someone is diagnosed with breast cancer. All people have breast tissue and no matter your gender you are at risk. One of the speakers, (@Limitless_em on Instagram) told us her story and I think it was her words which touched me the most.
She spoke about having small triplet babies and a toddler when she was first diagnosed and now, with teenagers, is living with secondary breast cancer.
She spoke about her survival through her illness while mothering. Her eldest son said to her when she relapsed: “You’ve just got to live like it’s not there, mum,” and while she absolutely is doing that, we also know that frustratingly, infuriatingly and devastatingly, it IS there and running the marathon (as she did days before her speech at the party) runs alongside her regular chemotherapy which is now a treatment she endures in order to live, rather than cure.
She was as mesmerising in her words as fellow breast cancer survivor Beverly Craven’s performance for the evening, her song Promise Me which had the whole room singing loudly in camaraderie.
My friend Alice, a Boobette fund raiser and charity trekker with CoppaFeel, one of the charities supported by the Tickled Pink campaign, danced next to me and as we smiled and laughed we were living life but we do have to remember, if we want to continue living life then we need to raise more money and check our boobs.
Alice would tell you the same, she is living in remission herself and her book, Life, Lemons and Melons, on how to live through mental anguish with the added mix of being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 26, is testament once again that this is a non-discriminatory, unfair and harsh illness which needs everything throwing at it to be eradicated.
As someone at this party, which had turned into something more than a jolly, I had to open my eyes and care about caring for myself, checking my boobs and putting my hand in my pocket when I could too, for the cause is a great one.
For the whole month of October you can donate simply by doing your shopping. A percentage of loads of products in Asda will go to the charity without requiring a second thought and besides, you can buy special merchandise or add on a simple 10p donation at the till. Easy. Important!
Tickled Pink came about because in 1996 Asda colleagues in store championed bosses to do something to help, having had stories themselves, as we most of us do by knowing someone or by being affected, and thankfully Asda took it on and ran with it.
The donations go to Breast Cancer Now, the research and care charity and to CoppaFeel, which was founded by Kris Hellenga and her twin after Kris was diagnosed with secondary cancer in 2009 at the age of 23.
Twelve years later and to my left as we sang along, Kris was dancing.
And that’s the importance of this charity.
Life, living it and being able to continue that, to not have it snatched away by such a thief of cancer. So, if you can, donate, shop in Asda (just for October if you usually prefer somewhere else) and most importantly check your breasts regularly so that you’ll be dancing at parties in decades to come, just as you should be.
Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk