And so it approaches, the end of September and we're not just heralding the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness but also October brings an omnipresent pink hue which means it's breast cancer awareness month. We can wear it pink, buy pink items of clothing, furniture, jewellery and food even and all to raise awareness of breast cancer. But for all the pink clamour of October Does it really have the impact it was designed to? I do wonder if we really serve all those people affected by breast cancer by the pink wash that October has become. Breast cancer has become a commodity, a way to sell a product that leaves me at best uncomfortable at worst angry. Don't let me put you off buying and wearing your support even but do make sure you know where the money is going.
I notice how reluctant I am to say anything negative about having had breast cancer. It feels that this month you're only allowed to be a plucky woman telling your survivor story with a smile. Can people affected by breast cancer really be served by the pink washing of what is still a devastating diagnosis, followed by often brutal treatment and yes of course survival is now so much better but nonetheless it leaves a legacy nobody would wish for. In a year when I personally have seen two very special women die in their 50's , I feel very fortunate still to be here, savouring life. But with each diagnosis and treatment I have lost wellbeing and capacity to take on life in all it's light and shade.I'm grateful everyday for all I'm still able to do and enjoy but I'm sad too for what I've lost and for all the days lost to the grey, emptiness of depression which so often accompanies a cancer diagnosis.
To be honest you can map my recovery in bras. Early this year they were grim postoperative white monster bras, to be worn 24/7 to protect the surgery. After that I've tried prettier versions which though still shapeless, at least weren't the post-op variety. But just this week I managed to use some lovely gift tokens and get three beautiful new bras. That feels like a big step forward and I've enjoyed throwing the others away. A stage at a time, I'm reclaiming myself and that feels good.
I loved the song Tears of a Clown as a youngster and it's words are resonating for me just now. So if there's a smile upon my face, it may in part be there to fool the public as the song goes but it's also real- if still a little fragile at times. The tears are real ( and yes they are mostly when no one else is around) too for the people who are no longer here and for the suffering breast cancer causes to people and their families. If you want to wear pink of course you should but do also look out for those you know who are affected by breast cancer in whatever way that is and hold them close. October for them can be a painful reminder. Put your money if you can spare it to charities who will invest it wisely and prioritise being breast aware as shown here at Breast Cancer Now. They estimate that if every woman checked her breasts regularly we could save 1,500 lives a year. Now that's worth a smile.
A wise older doctor said to me after my first diagnosis, more than 20 years ago, that there would be better times. And he was absolutely right. So to all of you who are struggling with the impact of breast cancer, when the tears are real and important to shed, remember that whatever happens, there will still be good times and my advice would be to be sure to really treasure them. I know I do. Like my recent holiday to Rome with the family, I savour every moment. Here's to more of those times for us all.