Cancer and other stuff

Breaking taboos

I LOVE what Macmillan have done today. If you haven’t seen, they’ve published a report which shows that 40 per cent of people will get cancer at some point in their life, and it’s been all over the media. The PR person in me thinks what a bloody great campaign and the whole media team should be really pleased and proud. Their spokesman Mike Hobday has been fantastic at capturing and communicating the bigger story – largely that the big C shouldn’t, and in many ways already isn’t, the taboo subject it once was. So right. SO RIGHT. It wasn’t long ago that even saying the word cancer (look, I just did it, ‘cancer’) wasn’t done, for fear of scaring the shit out of people and I’m

sure many people just didn’t want to face it because of the horrible connotations it came with. But – and this is only my humble opinion, I’m no expert and I certainly don’t speak for everyone – it feels like things are different now. Macmillan have rightly pointed out that, while many more people are likely to get it, survival rates are on the way up and I know from personal experience that huge strides are being made in treatment, all the time. It’s still devastating and I’ll never get used to it or really ever accept it I don’t think but the fact that awareness is being raised about the realities, and also what the health system needs to do to adapt, is hugely positive. I think so anyway.

Cancer is obviously an incredibly personal thing and I made the decision very early on that I was going to be open and honest, sometimes brutally so, about what it’s actually like. Not everyone shares that view and that’s their absolute right. But for me, it’s really really important to show it in its true colours. And that includes not being ashamed or embarrassed about it. The whole thing is difficult and life-changing enough without having to keep it as some dirty little secret. Breast cancer used to be something that women had ‘a long illness’ with, it certainly wasn’t done to discuss it. And as for surgery… boobs are still so associated with femininity (obviously, duh) that I’m sure many women would never admit to having had any. Many still don’t which again is their choice but I guess the point is they shouldn’t be made to feel like they can’t. I have one boob and a monstrosity called Frankenboob (which celebrates it’s 1st birthday tomorrow incidentally). Clearly I’d rather not have had a mastectomy at 30, before I’d had chance to breastfeed children but them’s the brakes. I mentioned before that I’m now on the Board of Breast Cancer Care who have a long and impressive history of support and campaigning for anyone affected by breast cancer, and I really am excited about being part of their work going forward, in whatever way I can. I owe it to myself, to them and to anyone else who ever faces this disease. We desperately need organisations such as these to fight for us and our rights as patients and people.

Anyway rambling a bit now (waiting for chemo to arrive, it’s v dull) but from me to you Macmillan, a massive thumbs-up.


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