Marks and Spencer there is no such thing as a pretty cancer. Cancer is vile and horrendous. It kills you. It should never be treated as an exercise for good PR. It should never be about profit or what looks good. You can’t package cancer up, wrap it in a fluffy bow and sell it to the masses. That’s not cancer.
Every day in the UK there are nearly 990 cases of cancer diagnosed. Today, 990 people will be told that they have cancer. Their life as they know it will come to a shuddering halt. They will suddenly find themselves faced with their own mortality, families will be ripped apart and marriages tested. Cancer isn’t pretty, but it is sadly, pretty common.
There are over 200 different types of cancer and chances are that you will know someone who has been affected by cancer. I only have to look in the mirror to see living proof of that statistic: I have bowel cancer. I am one of those 990 cases. Yet, I have a cancer that isn’t often talked about because, well, it’s a little bit embarrassing. We are terribly British and we can often be shy to talk about sh*t. That probably explains why bowel cancer is the second biggest killer when it comes to cancer. Bowel cancer is curable when caught early but people often leave it too late to go to the doctors.
Bowel Cancer Awareness Month
That’s why I am right behind Bowel Cancer Awareness month. For the month of April, Bowel Cancer UK are raising awareness of all things bowel cancer. People like me are coming forward and sharing our stories. We already feel vulnerable but we are opening up and talking about bowel cancer. Why? Because all of us are passionate about raising awareness so other people, other families, don’t have to endure what we are going through. Raising awareness really can help save lives. Therefore, it was incredibly galling to see Marks & Spencer (over on their Instagram page) announcing with great patronising pomp the launch of their new fashion line #bosombuddies which will help raise funds for breast cancer. Bowel Babe succinctly nailed my anger at such a bloody stupid and insensitive campaign.
I was outraged. The caption goes on to claim that
“by dressing in solidarity this spring, we can help stop breast cancer taking lives”
Really M&S? Sticking on a pretty t-shirt is hardly showing your solidarity. I might have bowel cancer but I would never assume that I know what someone who has breast cancer is going through. The t-shirt is far off the mark, insensitive and crass. Unless we are walking in their shoes, we can never imagine the hell that they are going through.
It’s Not Pink
Don’t get me wrong, I am not cross that M&S has chosen to represent breast cancer. A friend of mine died from breast cancer. But this isn’t the only cancer that women die from. However, from a PR perspective, it’s considered a more acceptable cancer. It’s been packaged and wrapped up in pink. M&S you have infantilised cancer. That’s not the reality of breast cancer though. There is no pretty in pink when you are living with breast cancer, there is no pretty in pink when you are dying from cancer.
Perhaps we need to make some suggestions to the company about how you could prettify other cancers. How we can give cancer that mass appeal. If you want to make bowel cancer pretty, perhaps you could always sprinkle some glitter on some sh*t. No, I didn’t think so. Sh*t just isn’t fashionable.
It would be nice to see big fashion companies like M&S running thoughtful campaigns, marketing campaigns that could make a real difference. Using real people who have been affected by cancer, not models. Show us the real face of cancer. Show us the real impact of living with cancer. Don’t use it as an excuse for good PR.
Use it for good. Use it to raise awareness.