I’ve only ever watched snippets of Big Brother, and those more or less by accident. But I had heard of Jade Goody – who hadn’t! – although I hadn’t heard about her cancer until last week. The first I knew of it was the photo of her bald head on the front page of all the papers, as the news broke that her cervical cancer is terminal. “How brave!” was my instant reaction because I would have found that so difficult to do when I lost my hair. I didn’t wear my wig all the time but I wore a hat and I never got used to seeing myself without hair. There was no way I was showing off my bald head in public. The photo alone is a huge statement – “I’ve got cancer and I’m not afraid to tell you all”.
There seems to have been a huge amount of sniping at her in the media about profiteering from her cancer. This is so unjust: how on earth can anyone profiteer from terminal cancer? I think it is enormously important that people talk about cancer openly – not just celebrities, but everyone. It is a horrible disease but the more people feel able to talk about it, the easier it becomes to deal with. I had been writing this blog for approaching a year before my cancer was diagnosed and I found that writing here gave me a welcome outlet. I derived tremendous support from my blog, partly from people’s comments but partly because, once it was all public, it became much easier to talk on a daily basis with anyone and everyone about what I was going through.
I remember vividly reading Ruth Picardie’s diary when she was dying of cancer and being very moved by this. Jane Tomlinson and Dina Rabinovitch both died around the time I was diagnosed and their stories too had captured my attention, in Jane’s case because of my involvement in triathlon and in Dina’s case because of her blog. I can’t say that I had ever had any interest in Jade’s antics or the celebrity culture around her but she must surely reach out to a huge young audience.
The more openness there is about cancer and its treatment, the more people will be aware of symptoms and screening. Apparently there has been a 20% increase in women attending for cervical screening since Jade Goody’s diagnosis, just as Kylie’s cancer prompted a huge rise in breast cancer screening. This is an enormous private tragedy for Jade and her family but I am sure the publicity will save more than one life.
My heart goes out to Jade and her young sons and I have great admiration for her bravery in dealing with this in full public view. Good luck, Jade.
Photo credit: matrixphotos.com