When I was a child, I had a secrets book with a shiny gold padlock and snazzy early 90s design. Most of it I filled with cut out pictures, poems, thoughts on school, sweets, that boy that kept stealing my pencil case. As an exception to the pages however, there are a couple that stand out. I remember writing them very neatly, at night. They start with: “I’m going to die. I have cancer and that’s it.” I then essentially talk with no logic about how I have lumps all over my body, which can only be cancer, and that I’m not going to tell anyone, as they may get upset about my impending end. Obviously I was fine and a couple of pages later, I’m discussing polly pockets. But I had just met cancer- my Grandad had leukemia – through various ways in my life and it had sent deep shivers through me.
About a month or so ago, my mum rang in the evening and told me that my auntie has breast cancer. I knew something was up, because she wouldn’t talk to me the Friday before. I had no one around me, Charlie was away and it was late. What do you do with this information? I wanted to ring people and even almost wanted to write on twitter, ‘I’m upset because my auntie has breast cancer.’ I couldn’t do any of these things though, because it was just too real and scary, and I wasn’t ready to discuss it, like it was normal and part of my life. But. I was upset because my auntie has breast cancer.
I’ve learnt a lot about breast cancer over the past few years. At university there was a beautiful girl who glowed everywhere she went. She had an identical twin. Together they were like beacons of healthy, youthful splendour. No, actually, stunning, lovely and clever – the ultimate combination. The twin is called Kristin Hallenga, she was diagnosed with breast cancer not long after university ended and the new phase of our lives began. Kristin is absolutely incredible. As opposed to shouting out about her doctor – it took eight months from first visit to diagnosis – she started Coppafeel, a charity to bring awareness of breast cancer to young people, as well as older.
Kristin and Fearne Cotton.
Thinking about her, my auntie and the reality that breast cancer is the number one cause of death amongst women aged 34 – 54 – one in eight women will suffer from it, I think really we should be discussing it more and being more aware of breasts! My auntie caught her cancer at stage two, Kristin was at stage four when it was confirmed. Both have said they should have known a bit more about how to check and be aware of breast cancer.
Go to the doctor if you’re worried. Also, DO talk to people if you know someone who has breast cancer. It’s important.