You can call it chance or happenstance that led me to Lauren Mahon’s GIRL STOLE LONDON. I’ll call it kismet. My Instagram feed paved the way and I’m grateful that it did, because it’s about damn time we talk about the big C. About time we face our fears, preconceptions and the dozen stigmas surrounding it. And I can’t think of a better way than through the raw, honest, no holds barred account of someone who’s not just living through it, but firmly kicking its behind with the #GIRLvsCANCER movement. MC, editor
Tell us a little about what inspired GIRL STOLE LONDON and #GIRLvsCANCER.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, I looked for women like myself to relate to. To inspire me. But all I could find via most breast cancer charities was older women whose lifestyle and approach didn’t resonate.
I may have cancer but I’m a normal fun-loving grab-life-by-the-balls kinda thirty-two year old gal. So I decided to talk openly about my situation and show that cancer isn’t always a death sentence. Talking about it shouldn’t be taboo.
In fact the more we discuss these things openly, the more people will become attuned to checking their bits and it will aid early detection. People are so scared of getting cancer they often leave things too late.
It’s helped me process my situation as much as it’s helped raise awareness, to be honest.
At what moment did you know you had to share your story?
I guess a week or so after I was diagnosed. I wanted to discuss the traumatic experience I was going through with others but I just didn’t know how. It dawned on me that being able to talk to someone who’d been on this journey would benefit me and I realised I might be able to be that person to others. It seemed natural.
You’ve spoken pretty candidly about the stigma surrounding breast cancer, about the financial ramifications of chemo and so much more. Did you ever worry about how it would be received, or whether your experience would resonate or engage people?
Oh definitely. And I’ve had some pretty full-on feedback on my wording and approach. It’s hard because you don’t want to upset or offend but you also want to be very honest with the nuances of what it actually means to be in cancer treatment.
Staying silent doesn’t change anything. If me speaking up means being disliked but making people think, then so be it I guess.
On the whole, the support has been immense and super positive, so I think I’m doing the right thing (I hope).
What’s the biggest impact you’ve seen #GIRLvsCANCER make?
I’m struggling to comprehend the impact talking about cancer is having on those around me. And beyond. I receive emails and messages daily, thanking me for what I’m doing because it’s helping others deal with things – and not just cancer!
I’m just talking about my experience and the fact that it’s making a difference to those who may be feeling overwhelmed or alone is so incredibly amazing. It makes me proud. It keeps me going.
Do it. Whatever it is. Do it with every piece of you. It’ll all work out in the end.
How does a typical day start and end?
There is no typical day in treatment. Most days I wake up and will check my social media and emails as there are usually quite a few people to respond to. Then brekkie + shower etc.
Currently I travel an hour to the hospital and an hour back for 10 mins of radiotherapy. After that, I try and be productive – I have so many ideas and content to share on GIRLvsCANCER but my brain and bod are exhausted.
It’s frustrating but I keep telling myself it’s temporary.
I prioritize packaging up customer orders of my Tit-Tees and catching up with my family over anything else at the moment.
From ‘Fun Bags’ to ‘Lady Lumps’, you’ve found a humorous way to get people talking about something that is usually kept so private. Just how do you find the right words to print?
I actually asked my family and friends at the start and picked the top five I thought people would like or use the most. I’m from London so some of the nicknames for our knockers might not resonate nationally. It’s good to have other folks’ perspective. My most recent slogan, ‘Bangers’, was voted for by my social communities. They love getting involved.
How do you deal with working on an online platform and the logistics of running a merchandising store? Do you have a mantra that keeps you going, keeps you focused?
To be honest, I’m still feeling it all out. So much has changed in my world and I try to focus on my health rather than on my platforms. It also helps to keep it authentic I hope, not too calculated in its content.
I’ve come to realise through my illness that I’m far more capable than I give myself credit for and that everything doesn’t need to be done right this second. With this in mind, I do my best and my best has to be good enough.
What other entrepreneurs/#girlbosses are you inspired by and why?
I’m super lucky to be surrounded by an incredible group of women. People like Kris Hallenga who founded Coppafeel after her own diagnosis, and Sophie Epstone who runs young adult cancer charity Trekstock are up there for me.
My peers are a pretty successful bunch and motivate me daily, from my girls Hannah Purser bossing it at Beats to Becky Taylor owning it at Oasis. Lucy from Never Fully Dressed, Alex Cameron photographer extraordinaire and stylist sista Laura Martin. Not to mention all my bloggers / babes such as Alya Mooro, Lindsey Holland, Callie Thorpe, Emma Hill, Anna Hart, Olivia Purvis, Lizzy Hadfield, Julia Rebaudo, Megan Gilbride, Emma Gannon, Millie Cotton, Laura Jane Williams and Hannah Louise F (to name a few).
All of them kick some serious arse and are smashing glass ceilings on the regular. I’m a lucky girl to have these queens as my friends.
“To be in any way a positive contribution, that’s all anybody wants to be. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to be” – Angelina Jolie. Do you have any tips for aspiring changemakers on how to get and stay committed to a cause or a project?
First of all, I think you don’t find a cause – it finds you. Funnily enough my cancer gave me a purpose in life; I truly believe this was meant to happen. And it’s because of this that I’m driven.
If you feel passionately about something and wholeheartedly care about what you are doing, then motivation may dip but it never ceases.
My tip is simply if it feels right, then do it. Whatever it is. Do it with every piece of you. It’ll all work out in the end.
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Photographs by Moeez Ali
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