You may have noticed a pink theme emerge on my Instagram in the last few days. This isn’t the normal blogger decision based on aesthetic, but to signal my partnership with the charity Breast Cancer Care during the month of October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month).
Breast cancer is still the most common cancer in the UK, the lifetime risk of a women developing breast cancer currently being 1 in 8. Of course many of us will be aware from personal experience how real and scary a statistic that is. It’s hard not to feel helpless in the situations where we find ourselves effected by Cancer, however something we can all do is contribute to amplifying the importance of Breast Cancer awareness.
Of course goals like this should be strived for continuously, but with busy and stressful lives, and with so many worthy issues needing awareness, it’s helpful to have scheduled events and initiatives to nudge us into action. That’s why Breast Cancer Awareness month and movements like The Big Pink (a pink themed fundraising event) are so important.
A bit more about the charity…
Breast Cancer Care understand the emotions, challenges and decisions faced by those affected by Cancer. They’re on hand to support via their nurses, who can help to ensure people are getting the best treatment and care possible. There’s downloadable specialist information that you can access and refer to whenever its needed. There are also volunteers who you can connect with, who truly know from personal experience, what you may be dealing with on a day to day basis.
Be pink and fabulous with your friends on 14 October (or any other day in October) and hold a Big Pink
for Breast Cancer Care. Sign up for your free fundraising kit, bursting
at the seams with lots of Big Pink goodies just for you!
When I was out with some of my girl friends last weekend, we ended up in the corner of the bar, in a dark nook away from the males who were busy getting shots and being generally rowdy.
I was with a good gal friend as well as a couple of her friends – ladies I’ve only met in passing prior to this night. My close friend was being vocally relaxed (code for tipsy) having enjoyed a couple of Porn Star Martinis in honour our mutual friend’ birthday. She was saying to the other girls how important our friendship was, mainly because we have no censor in terms of what we discuss. She was telling them how we often talk our bodily functions and features. How we’ll often exchange WhatsApp messages asking ‘does this happen to you too?” ‘Is this a normal amount?’ ‘Is that a normal colour’ etc. If there’s something/anything worrying us about our body, health, (or life in general) we don’t hesitate to get in touch..whatever time of day. We will either get it resolved after a to and fro on WhatsApp, a distressed and whispery late night phone call, or we’ll schedule a meet up to mull it over and sort it out together as a team.
As we told them the nature and depth of stuff we discuss, and the so called ‘embarrassing’ or personal things we are willing to share and confide in each other, the other girls were clearly surprised, and even seemed tad envious. They explained that they didn’t have those sort of friends in their lives – the ones they felt comfortable opening up to (to that extent atleast), nor did they feel they had those people they could go to if they weren’t coping with something terribly well. (Whether they genuinely don’t have those people in their lives, or whether they just haven’t allowed themselves to embark on that sort of frank and open relationship was unclear).
In that moment me and my good pal made it very clear that from that point onwards that they would now be part of this, and that nothing they could say would ever shock us. This was an open forum of trust, one absent of judgement. To encourage their participation myself and my confident comrade decided to tell them about the most taboo thing we’ve ever discussed, in a way to prove that really nothing is out of bounds. Within a few seconds these practical stranger were shouting ‘me too’ and ‘ I thought I was the only one’ in turn revealing very intimates aspects of their life/body/health.
This lovely moment in a noisy bar on a Friday night got me thinking about some many important issues.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that some things are unbecoming to say or talk about (particularly as a female). Past generations have also taught us that some things are and should be kept private. Some people have the belief that should just get on with things. Be independent and deal with it on your own, they’ll say. And while I agree a great amount of strength can come from being independent and individually proactive, a hell of a lot of strength and power can be gained from being vulnerable, and admitting you need or want some help too. This goes for all of us, none of what’s featured in this post is meant to be focused on just females.
If you’ve been effected by Breast Cancer – whether you’ve been diagnosed yourself, know or love someone with the disease, know someone who knows someone affected, or perhaps worrying about a change you’ve noticed in your body – being able to seek comfort, solace and support from others, is so very important.
Now, I’m not suggesting you rely on friends to give you medical advice ( Your Dr’s and sites like Breast Cancer Care and their nurses would be better suited), but they can be an incredible support and help your build or maintain the courage to seek the professional help you may need.
These friends may even show support by being able to serve as very welcome distractions. I’ve found that those friends that you allow in to all aspects of your unique inner world, become very adept at knowing when you need to talk and confront important life moments/decisions/feelings, and when you need to temporarily escape from them.
Over the years, with my various physical and mental health problems, I’ve tried various approaches to dealing and coping with them. I’ve gone down the route of denial, which I don’t have to tell you, is completely unhelpful and potentially harmful. Other times I’ve accepted there’s a problem but attempted to be stoic, not wanting to share my issue with others for fear or being judged, or becoming a burden or bore. But more recently I’ve found that sharing and openly talking about my health has made existing with, or treating the illnesses, far far easier. In fact I’ve found a surprising level of fulfilment and enrichment from doing so too. And strangely I find that in the social circumstances where dark or difficult matters are discussed in a group, laughter and hilarity often ensues – somehow when we get together we manage to muster some much needed light.
I truly believe that sharing leads to support, and that both of these together leads to a boost in awaremess and understanding…. which will eventually lead to positive results in terms of people’s ability to live and cope in the presence of cancer.
From talking openly about my health issues on my blog and YouTube, existing friends felt newly capable or opening up – very superficial friendships changed, they were now reaching out to me on a level we had never shared before. Openess and the sharing of one’s story appeared to lead to progress in terms of existing with the affects of that given issue. So in the process of sharing my story, I gained a greater connection withing existing realtionships, and gained new relationships with those that had felt comfortable to seek me out, because they had their own stories to share. Suddenly we had this shared and extremely supportive network.
People shouldn’t feel scared to open to seek out answers about the health, nor be scared to talk about the repurcussions of those answers. We can’t let the positive repetitions of empowering statements about independance and strength confuse into thinking that expressing a struggle or difficulty is a sign of weakness. By seeking help/advice/comfort through friendships, charities and professionals we become a powerhouse force to be reckoned with. My talking openly about personal issues, or by spreading important (and even generic) messages and information on social media we are making these topics regular conversations and thoughts.
I’m not suggesting you you have to share your story publicly on social media, not at all. Not everyone will feel comfortable doing so. But you can be receptive to those who do, and you can seek a similar relief and bolster through a relationship, or via a charity that allows you to vent about the intricacies of your particular situation.
So aside from the obvious benefits of holding you own The Big Pink event (raising money for this wonderful charity) you also have the opportunity to be part of an honest and open discussion amongst friends – existing and new. Of course you should use this get together to run, laugh, eat, drink and pamper (goodness knows we need it) but you could also use it as a wonderful bonding experience, a real occasion to share your worries, triumphs and fears. For some it may be a fairly intimidating prospect, I understand, but I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to speak so frankly in a group that will have your back. Not only have your back, they’ll want to prop it up and make it as upright as possible. In my experience sharing and opening is like a muscle. The more you use it the easier it becomes…. and the stronger you get.
There’s no limits or rules to this. Do it in the community, at work, at home, or outside (if the British weather allows). It doesn’t matter whether there’s a gaggle of you or just a couple of you, you are all contributing to the changes we all want to see. Pink isn’t about just women either, in fact my fella rock pinks better than anyone I know. Plus we all know that Cancer doesn’t descriminate.
If you have any questions or struggling for event inspirarion that get in touch with The Big Pink Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0300 100 4442.
But the information you need can all be found here https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/the-big-pink
I will be doing a follow up blog post soon, with just a few ideas of what sort of events you could put on this October.