This writer will make you think twice about posting a #nomakeup selfie.

Ashley Middleton

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.

Are #nomakeup selfies an effective way to spread awareness about breast cancer?

I vaguely recall from last year that I may even start having mammograms soon (the usual age is around 40) but I need medical reassurance that they are safe after half-heartedly reading about the associated risks. I am very aware of cancer, but outside of my check-ups, I don’t have to if I don’t want to.

The friend I reached out to is one of many close friends who has lost a relative to cancer, some more suddenly than I, most too early. These friends are my support group, they are there for me when yet another fucking ‘heart-warming’ or ‘tear-inducing’ campaign tells us to ‘fight’ cancer.

They are there for me when a TV medical drama with a particularly strong theme of death or survival just takes me by surprise. These friends are there for me when all I want to do is say “I’m not feeling great today,” and often I’m there for them too.

I personally appreciate reassurance, transparency and progress updates. Where is the science up to, what treatments are being trialled? I don’t need the unnecessary reminder from viral media commentary, I don’t need any more ‘awareness’ no matter how positive.

I am not calling for sympathy to sensitive little flowers like myself, just a different way of approaching issues that matter. Share a news story about a new treatment, share a petition, ask me for a charitable donation — heck, I’ll even show you how I check my boobs if you want to learn the technique. Just tread carefully when you do start talking about cancer because you don’t know who is reading.

These are my experiences, and this is my invitation, let’s touch boobs and talk.

You can even leave your make-up on.

Do #makeupfreeselfies, like the ones below, attract attention and raise awareness?

Ashley Middleton is a Liverpool (UK) girl getting lost in Barcelona. An educator and online marketer with a background in the arts, she occasionally contributes to Twitter and Medium.

What do you think about the idea of make up free selfies for breast cancer awareness?