There is no one face of cancer, we have to tell all sides of the story – the pink and the grey
ONE in two of us will end up with cancer.
Millions of people, me included, are already living with it – day in, day out.
It’s tough, exhausting, painful, terrifying, a nightmare you could never have anticipated.
It’s challenging, even inspiring at times – teaching you things about yourself you never thought possible.
But, if I’ve learned one thing in the last two-and-a-bit years since doctors told me I had stage 4 bowel cancer, it’s this – cancer looks different for each and every patient.
There is no norm, there is no standard cancer journey.
This disease takes each unlucky and unwilling rider on a rollercoaster ride of ups and many more downs.
This week has been no different.
It’s reminded me that every cancer patient responds to it different, in their own unique way.
Cancer ISN’T pink and fluffy
This week my cancer has seen me descend into a pit of panic and anxiety, before having yet another op – this time to blast three liver tumours.
Waking up from my op at The Royal Marsden, the question of what cancer really looks like was right in front of me, all over my social media.
Lying in a hospital bed, dosed up on fentanyl, the reality of my cancer felt very miserable.
The M&S ad campaign I saw just didn’t depict cancer as I know it. It didn’t even come close
Yet, a new ad campaign by M&S and Breast Cancer Now was once again depicting cancer as “pink and fluffy”.
It should have been, it really could have been a brilliant fundraising campaign.
And don’t get me wrong, I am all for raising money to fund research into this b****** disease.
But, in my opinion – and those of hundreds of other cancer patients – the Fashion Targets Cancer Campaign, got it wrong this time.
Cancer is brown – we need to talk about poo
Firstly, it irritated me that they had to launch a breast cancer campaign during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – not that these awareness months are scared.
So many people are working tirelessly this month to raise awareness of bowel cancer – and yes that means talking about poo.
It’s not pretty, it’s not pink – it’s brown but it’s the second deadliest form of cancer and kills around 16,000 people every year. So it needs to be talked about.
For too long, we as a society have shied away from things that are a bit grim, poo, our bowels, the nasty things going on in there.
We get embarrassed and ignore it, instead focusing on cancers that are more acceptable – not that any cancer is acceptable!
Breast cancer is horrendous, and it’s a disease that we absolutely should be talking about, there’s no denying it.
But we need to make it as OK to talk about our poo, as our boobs.
The ad campaign I saw just didn’t depict cancer as I know it. It didn’t even come close.
Using tag lines like “Bosom buddies” and “two is stronger than one” in a marketing campaign for a disease that leaves many patients without one or both boobs seemed crass to me.
We are allowed to call big brands out on failing to be diverse, falling short of representing all corners of society – yet when it comes to cancer, the rules appear to be different.
Why can’t brands be braver?
There are more than 200 types of cancer, with charities all trying to raise awareness and lucrative commercial deals to spread the word.
And while I don’t want to detract from what was, no doubt, a very well meaning campaign to raise vital funds for a great charity, it’s important to say another “pink and fluffy” ad campaign isn’t really good enough by today’s marketing standards.
Today, with the power of social media, thousands upon thousands of people are sharing THEIR versions of cancer.
There are so many voices out there, so many variations, so many stories that just prove the point – cancer does look different for everyone of us.
I’m the first to celebrate good cancer days
Yes, some of us do have days where our cancer is pink, glamorous and I’m the first to celebrate those days.
But it is important to make sure that big marketing ad campaigns don’t only show that side.
Cancer is grey, blue, green and brown – it’s not always pink and easy to accept.
And breast cancer doesn’t only affect women, blokes can get it too.
The outpouring of reaction on social media just showed to me how different cancer and how it changes every day.
One minute I feel up to facing it.
The next I want to show off my scars, then I want to hide them away.
One moment I get overly sensitive at the wording of big ad campaign, the lack of representation.
The next I’m too busy dancing to notice.
But cancer is blue, grey, dark and miserable too
In just a few days my cancer has looked like a shaking, quivering mess.
There have been tears in the middle of a restaurant, I’ve lashed out at my husband treating him like a punchbag.
My cancer is hard for him, it’s hard for all my family, it’s not nice.
Let’s make sure we tell all the stories, show all the versions of cancer we can… that is when we can really learn what cancer truly looks like
I partied, danced the night away and in that moment my cancer felt normal. I felt like a normal 37-year-old.
Then my cancer brought me back down to Earth with a bang – and what felt like my hundredth op.
Today my cancer is feeling OK, I’m sore and a bit wobbly but I’m starting to feel better.
My mind feels calm today, my cancer looks like a normal person again.
The long and short of it, is this – cancer doesn’t have one face.
All cancer is sh*t, none of us want this disease, but we have to deal with it.
THINGS CANCER MADE ME SAY
This is my cancer, and I get through it the best I can. This is what my cancer looks like, and I know it’s very different for others.
Don’t judge me, walk with me. If I want to shout, I’ll shout.
If I want to show off my body and dress up to the nines and try to feel glam, I will do that.
Because, no one truly knows what it feels like to walk in our shoes.
But the important bit is this… let’s make sure we tell all the stories, show all the versions of cancer we can.
Together by telling all our different stories we might make life a bit easier, a bit better, a bit more bearable for others.
And that is when we can really learn what cancer truly looks like.