Cambridge Pink Week aims to raise money and awareness for breast cancer charitiesCAMBRIDGE PINK WEEK

This week, Cambridge is turning pink (virtually!) to raise money and awareness for breast cancer charities. Pink Week has been educating and inspiring Cambridge annually since 2014, and this year, as a Pink Week college rep, I know that organising and planning for events has been difficult. But although we can no longer enjoy formals or other in-person activities, the Pink Week team are continuing to work hard to support our charities through a variety of online events throughout the week, including a virtual art exhibition, an escape room, informative talks, and online exercise classes.

I spoke to my friend Lucy, who is an inspirational breast cancer survivor and one of the kindest, strongest and most positive women I know. Her strength of character and resilience have kept me motivated and positive throughout the current pandemic to persevere with the planning of Pink Week and to go on despite everything we are all having to deal with right now. Her story highlights the importance of this week’s campaign and how what we are doing really will make a difference in supporting those who are affected.

Lucy was always aware of the real possibility of breast cancer, since her mother battled and survived it in her late fifties, and so Lucy had a feeling it could happen to her too. But, around her 40th birthday, Lucy was shocked to find a lump while she was in the shower. Two weeks after that she went back to her GP, who had previously denied her request for a mammogram, and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Lucy stressed to me how important it is to break down the stigma which still surrounds breast cancer and checking our own bodies”

I asked Lucy how she managed to stay so strong and positive throughout her experience. “It was more after that it hit me, when I went back to reality.” She says she didn’t cry, and didn’t really think about it while it was all happening. “I’m pretty stubborn”, she told me, and got through her treatment one step at a time. It was only after the treatment that the exhaustion hit her. She took out a Netflix subscription while she was recovering: “Look after yourself, and do nice things for yourself,” she wanted me to tell anyone going through a similar experience. “A bit of normality makes such a big difference.”

The support surrounding Lucy from family, friends and doctors, was crucial in maintaining her strength. Her mum went to chemo sessions with her and her dad drove her to the hospital every single week. Breast cancer charities provided another important layer of support. Lucy attended weekly jewellery-making sessions, had therapeutic massages and made new friends through charities. “We didn’t really talk about cancer, we talked about everything else,” but having people there was so reassuring and this is now proving extremely difficult for others during the pandemic. Pink Week, then, is more important than ever this year, as charities’ funding has been threatened by the economic hardship of the pandemic, and many of those who are suffering have struggled to access the fundamental support they need.

Lucy stressed to me how important it is to break down the stigma which still surrounds breast cancer and checking our own bodies. This year, one of the core pillars of Pink Week is education, and in particular, to improve young people’s awareness of breast cancer. Breast cancer affects about 1 in 7 women and is the most common type of cancer in the UK, also affecting around 400 men each year. However, even though breast cancer affects so many, there is still a lack of conversation about the importance of checking your boob or pec areas each month, and Lucy too felt she wasn’t told about this.


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“Catch it early!” Lucy advises. This can reduce the risks significantly; with early detection, the 5-year relative survival rate of breast cancer is 99%. Despite these statistics, only 29% of women aged 18–35 years old check their boobs monthly, showing that young people are still not being educated on the importance of checking themselves. In school, it was never mentioned to me, even though doing a simple, five minute check could be lifesaving.

Even Lucy, who had always been aware of the risk of breast cancer, admitted that she never really checked herself: “It was sheer luck that it was in an obvious place. Now I always tell people to check.” Young women in particular may feel too embarrassed or scared to go to a doctor, and men even less likely to seek help, because breast cancer is rarer for them - though no less deadly. During Covid especially, people may hesitate to go to a GP, but Lucy insisted, “If there is any doubt, get seen immediately… Don’t just tell yourself it’s nothing. Go to the doctor, even if just for your own peace of mind.”

Safeguarding checks are so simple to perform, and yet, without inspirational women like Lucy, and campaigns such as Pink Week, I would never have learnt how important self-checking is. Pink Week charities Breast Cancer Now and CoppaFeel! have created easy guides for self-checking your breasts, and CoppaFeel! even provides a completely free service that will send you a text each month with a reminder to check yourself (sign up here!). “Check, check, check,” is Lucy’s advice to young people, and make sure to do it thoroughly and regularly. It doesn’t have to be a scary experience, but rather a normal part of our routine and an empowering way to protect ourselves.

The Cambridge Pink Week Committee is hoping to engage students to check in with their mental and physical health, spread life-saving awareness and bring some light into your lockdown. Follow these links to our events and Just-Giving pages:

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