What a month.
Last October, 2014, I was halfway through chemo. Quite frankly, I looked and felt like a bag of crap. The massive bald patch on top of my head, steroid bloat, Generic Cancer Face as a result of missing eyebrows and eyelashes, constantly streaming eyes and nose, sore and bleeding arse, and rank mouth thanks to oral thrush were actually the least of my worries. I was more concerned with my upcoming CT and ultrasound scans. Worst case - the results would show my cancer had spread and was incurable. Best case - the scans would be clear and I could look forward to my post-chemo treat of.... surgery. Ooh goody! A skin-sparing (but not nipple-sparing) mastectomy with immediate reconstruction using latissimus dorsi muscle flap, and expander implant. It's as lovely as it sounds. I was also newly single, knew I would never have children of my own even if I did stay alive (and that's if I even managed to find someone new to love me, cancer and all!)
So much of the "awareness raising" and fundraising that goes on during Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a smack in the face to young women like me who are undergoing or have undergone treatment for that very disease. Last year it was pink Playboy bunnies strutting round train stations with collection buckets, this year it was a social media campaign to... show everyone your bra strap on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. Gah! (Don't get me wrong - both fundraising and awareness raising are incredibly important - but it doesn't have to be so insensitive).
I'd set this blog up in March to encourage and support young women with breast cancer to write about and share their experiences. Writing is cathartic! As October approached I realised the blog was also an ideal platform to do some awareness raising of what it's really like to be a young woman with breast cancer. I hoped that I might be able to publish a new post every day throughout the month.
In actual fact - there have been 65 posts on the blog this October. I have been blown away by the response from young women across the country, who wanted to add their voice and share their stories. It has been an absolute honour to read, publish and share every single one of them. I would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all of the women who took the time to write for the blog for breast cancer awareness month. There have been over 16,000 views on the blog during October. Your stories have both educated and inspired. THANK YOU!
I would also like to say thank you to everyone out there who has liked the Facebook page, followed us on Twitter, shared the blog posts, and added their kind and supportive comments. Every single one has been very much appreciated. Please continue to read, comment, and share. It feels as though the Young Women's Breast Cancer Blog is becoming a safe and supportive community - you are all a part of that.
Thank you also to the AWESOME Jo Harrison for designing our very own special pink ribbons.
Thank you to Melissa Fletcher for designing the pink photo ribbon we used as part of our October "logo".
And thank you to all of the amazing young women with breast cancer who contributed their photos to create this poster.
So what's next?!
Breast Cancer Awareness Month might be at it's end, but the blog is here year round. Any young woman in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis can contribute to the blog at any time. Here's some information that will hopefully be of use if you are interested!
If you have any queries - please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But there's more!
Throughout October a number of conversations have been taking place behind the scenes and... we are going to do a special series of blog posts at the end of November/beginning of December. There'll be a separate post calling out for submissions very soon, but I wanted to give a heads up just now. It's going to be a no holds barred, unfiltered, honest series about being young and single with breast cancer. Sex, dating, body confidence and all the rest of it. If this is something you might like to contribute to please get in touch at email@example.com. All posts can be kept completely anonymous.
More info coming very soon!
In the meantime, thank you again for all of your support during breast cancer awareness month. Go and check your breasts now eh?