Yesterday I learned that yet another lovely chum has breast cancer. This takes the number of personal friends diagnosed to eight.
I know it’s a bit bloody odd to keep a mental tally of diagnosed mates, but this particular cancer is the one that keeps on sending me to ‘Just Giving’…
Of those eight friends, three have died. One of them was my Up North Bestie (UNB).
Next month it’ll be five years since her eldest daughter, then aged twelve, texted me early one morning to say that her Mum had died; five years since I sat waiting for the ‘tipple trolley’ at the hospice and drank her share and mine; five years since we lolled around her front room while my one-year old boy kept trying to hurl toy dinosaurs into her sick bucket; five years since my unique, edgy, mischievous UNB slipped out of my awake hours forever and set up permanent residence in my dreams.
Every year since then, my daughter and I have joined UNB’s daughters and sister for a Race for Life event. Last year the girls felt that watching me wobble unattractively around a field in Cheshire for two hours wasn’t quite humiliating enough, so we did one of their muddy events where your wobbling is delightfully overemphasised by being slathered in brown goo.
These events are always emotional, always funny and always VERY PINK. Last year, the warm-up was accompanied by some very aggressive chanting of “Cancer, we’re coming to get you!” even though we all agreed that cancer probably couldn’t hear us and even if it could, was unlikely to think, shit there’s a load of really angry women in pink t-shirts, we’d better do one…
This month is International Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the pinkification of the cause is brighter than ever. Breast Cancer Now, the UK’s largest BC charity, are staging their ‘Wear It Pink Day’ on October 21st so that we can all, “stand together, united against breast cancer”.
The night before that, while I’m cavorting about on a stage doing my stand-up gig, my newly-diagnosed friend will be waking from a mastectomy op. If I turn up at her bedside the next day, dressed boob-to-bum in neon pink, loudly declaring how TODAY I AM VERY VERY MUCH AGAINST THE PRESENCE OF YOUR BREAST CANCER, will all the bad cells immediately wither and die under the sheer force of my public pink protest?
Breast Cancer went pink in 1992 with the arrival of the pink ribbon, brought into being by Estèe Lauder and the editor of ‘Self’ magazine. It had to be pink, a colour which studies show creates a playful, life-affirming vibe. It’s calming, quieting and health-giving (think of the phrase ‘in the pink’). As the campaign, Think Before You Pink points out, pink is everything that cancer is NOT.
Companies LOVE supporting breast cancer awareness. Breast cancer is free of icky ‘lifestyle issues’. Nobody wants to wear a grey ribbon for fag-induced lung cancer. Raising awareness of colon cancer is tricky coz we don’t want to think about poo. But boobs? Boobs are about feminity and nurturing. We love to think about boobs, to see pics of boobs, to see pics of women fondling their boobs (though we do NOT want to see them being used for the feeding of children thank-you very much, we’re not bloody SAVAGES).
If a company pops a bit of pink on their trainers, or perfume bottles, or sports bras in ‘support of breast cancer awareness’, they will see a lovely rise in profits. They may also donate a certain percentage of those profits to breast cancer charities, which is totally brill, but they may not. Especially if their declared gig is just to ‘raise awareness’ – that frustratingly unmeasurable (and therefore unnacountable) beast – which allows them to use cause-related marketing, which means you might be more likely to buy their shizzle because when you wear it you feel like you’re raising awareness, when in fact you’re only raising their profit margins.
Tomorrow, another of my eight women will be in hospital again for more tests. There’s something showing up in her ‘good’ boob. I don’t think she needs me to go out and buy tons of pink products to show her how much I care about raising awareness of breast cancer.
I think she’d rather I check my boobs, show my daughter how to check her boobs, spend time with our other friend who is losing a boob, and pray to the God of Boobs (Dolly Parton, surely..) that her something turns out to be nothing.
And ooooh I know…why don’t I perform a live boob examination on stage at me comedy gig…? Oh, UNB would have loved it!
Now THAT’S what I call raising awareness…