Yesterday morning I woke up to a Facebook page scattered with ‘no make up selfies’. In case you’ve missed it, the premise is that a woman takes a selfie without any make up, posts it on social media, nominates other women to do it and donates money to a cancer charity.
Admittedly, some of the earlier ones I saw were people that looked remarkably (suspiciously?) good, and I almost believed the haters hype – the suggestion that this was nothing to do with raising awareness of cancer and the importance of fundraising, or that it had been taken over by people adding pictures of themselves ‘pretending’ to be embarrassed, wanting affirmation of their natural beauty, or just doing it to be part of a trend.
And then my timeline became full of natural faces of women I love, women from school, women I’ve worked with. The majority look a little bashful and many accompany the picture with apologies for their ghastly appearance. For the ones I know well, they weren’t doing this because actually they thought they looked pretty good and wanted lots of comments of ‘OMG, you look so great without all the slap’. Seeing their natural faces made me smile and when so many of them poured in, I felt a sense of sisterhood solidarity. By today, my whole Facebook stream was of bare-faced ladies. Beats pictures of people’s dinner (not guilty) or their kids in fancy dress (most definitely guilty).
One criticism has been ‘Look at all these idiots jumping on the bandwagon, I bet they’re not even donating’. Well some might not be, but with £2m (and counting)* raised in 48 hours, some of them most definitely are. It might feel more worthy to climb a mountain or do a skydive and raise a massive sum, but if you want big numbers and a broader audience, this #nomakeupselfie is bloody marvellous. Frankly, I don’t care how it’s done. I just know we need to keep raising money.
At the heart of all this is a fact – cancer can destroy lives.
I’ve seen people have their world rocked with the news that someone has cancer. I’ve seen friends lose loved ones. I’ve stood in the kitchen laughing with my mum as she told me a story about her childhood, and then watched her crumble, shoulders shaking because she’s crying and she misses her little sister, who died aged 46. I saw my cousins stand up at their mum’s funeral reading a poem they’d written about her, something I will never, ever forget. I have friends who have lost a parent when they were young, who now have children of their own and would give anything to be able to show that parent their grandchild, to ask them questions and be able to relate to them as a fellow mum or dad. I’ve got friends living with the fear that a loved one’s cancer might return, or that they themselves might have inherited this hideous disease.
And I have a husband who was diagnosed with a rare thyroid cancer aged 30. I saw the confusion on his parents face as they had to come to terms with their boy’s diagnosis, something I can only even begin to comprehend now I have children of my own. The bewildered faces of our friends, trying to understand how someone so young and fit and alive could have a deadly disease. I waited in fear as Doug went through aggressive surgery to his throat. I watched him speak a few weeks later at his best friend’s wedding, his voice weak but his mind set absolutely rock solid. I went in to labour the day after he finished 5 weeks of radiotherapy, and I saw him – in pain and exhausted himself – sob huge heaving tears as he held his firstborn for the first time and somewhere in his mind wrestled with the thought of loving something so much when he didn’t know his own future.
If I allow myself to think it, I know without people raising money for research and treatment, and without the huge list of people that have an involvement in diagnosing and treating cancer, my husband would be dying or dead. So don’t tell me that people are raising money for the wrong reasons, or ‘not really’ being charitable. Do we need to look for an angle to moan about something that doesn’t need an explanation? Some people might just want to show off their unblemished skin and naturally thick eyelashes. Some might have missed the point and not actually donated. Good luck to them. But to the thousands of women that have dared to bare (and I know many of them would probably rather not) and have donated money, I think you rock. #sisterhood
*On 25th March Cancer Research UK announced they had received £8m to date as a result of the #nomakeupselfie, in 6 days
You can text BEAT to 70099 and donate £3 to Cancer Research UK or text CURE to 70660 to donate £3 to Breast Cancer Campaign, or any other charity that you want to support