A while back I posted about back messages for charity walks and invited suggestions for what approach I might adopt when completing mine for Saturday's little stroll (still time to sponsor me online or in real life). There is always the danger that it will offend people who are included/excluded, for some it mixes memorials to absent friends/loved ones with celebration of those who "win" (a word I object to in this context) and omits those who live with whatever it is that's being supported financially. Some people feel it's bad luck to have their names added. Others feel it's an honour.
So, after a lot of soul searching I asked five women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the last year, and with whom I have had a degree of contact (two by blog three by email, none of us has met in life), if I could add their names to my back message on Saturday. It will therefore say:
I'm shining for...
Ali, Annie, Chez, Jane, Jane and myself
Living with, through and beyond breast cancer
Breast cancer has an 80/20 rule - 80% of people diagnosed are over fifty, so I'm secretly smug that my back message reflects a reverse 80/20 - four of the five women I've asked are under fifty. When I was diagnosed a long-standing and very intelligent friend said to me "but you can't have it you aren't fifty yet". Oh yes I can, and lots of people do. About 9000 under fifties a year in Britain to be precise.
Cancer respects nothing and no-one, it defies its own rules and strikes when and where it will. I have in mind an advertising campaign that could be used featuring images of vicars, imams, athletes, young parents, old people, Asian, African, European etc etc all who have/had cancer... but that's another story for another day. Today I want to tell you briefly, and hopefully appropriately anonymously, about my five fellow travellers...
Ali is in her early forties and is mum of little boy. Her journey is very similar to mine but runs about four months behind me, she is just about finishing her radiotherapy now and has some 'tidying up' surgery ahead of her. There is a complex, convoluted, real world link, but we are email contacts.
Annie is in her mid twenties, is a music teacher and an active member of her local church. She had a lump small enough to be excised with clear margins... but has aggressive mets and has just begun a palliative chemo regime whilst still working full time.
Chez is in her mid thirties and is lone parent of a little girl. Following a mastectomy, she is currently NED and hoping that she can have reconstruction at some point. She has faced many life challenges and hopes soon to move back to her home town.
Jane (1) is a year younger than me, single and loves dogs. She is a professional writer and full time carer for her elderly mother. It seemed her story would be like mine when she was diagnosed and had a mastectomy. Sadly her CT scan showed liver mets and her chemo regime now reflects her Stage 4 diagnosis. We are in email contact.
Jane (2) is in her fifties, a church minister and a dog lover. She has had a mastectomy and chemotherapy and is now most of the the way through her radiotherapy (EIGHT!). She is a jam maker, mother and wife. We are in email contact.
In super-cheesy-but-true fashion, I am privileged to have been allowed to share with these women parts of their journey/story and I am honoured to carry their names on my back. I chose my words carefully - each of us is in some way living with, through and beyond breast cancer whatever the prognosis, whatever the stats, whatever that looks like. We are LIVING and that is the key to it all.
I'm really looking forward to my little walk... just hope it stays dry!