I am 26 years old, almost 27, and today I realised I’m just a couple of years away from the age of my mother when her first cancer was diagnosed.
I’m reminded of this because my Facebook newsfeed is filled with complaints about the latest viral trend.
“No make-up selfies doing nothing for cancer,” they cry, “you look ugly”; “ raise funds, sign petitions, count on science…anything, but this vacuous shit!”
I was surprised as I hadn’t seen any selfies but it seemed to be an un-coordinated, un-officiated awareness raising campaign. Awareness campaign my arse, it was about as empathic as a box of pens.
I tried to ignore it but it pissed me off. Aside from some quite un-feminist comments about make-up-less selfies, I get a jarring twitch in my eye when I see the word cancer unprepared. All I saw in these comments was cancer, everywhere. Again and again, after a rough day when I didn’t feel like being made aware of cancer.
My mother died from an unfortunate mix of mental illness and cancer almost six years ago. Seeing the word littered through my Facebook newsfeed, I had to hold back some tears. I worked through it logically and after reaching out to a friend, got on with my day.
I’m already aware that I missed my annual check-up at a specialist breast cancer clinic (I am away from my home country and my familiar medical service, being bold and establishing a new chapter in my life). While I don’t know if I am genetically predisposed to the cancer my mother and many other women in my family have had; being closely related to someone who had a cancer so young means I am in a known high risk category.
This warrants annual check-ups at which my breast cancer specialist gives a physical exam of my breast tissue, asks me some general health questions, and answers any questions that may of occurred to me since I last saw her. She also talks to me about any pertinent developments in prevention, diagnosis and treatment.