By Alyce Collins
AFTER a disastrous marketing campaign ENRAGED cancer patients across the UK, one determined blogger planned a photo shoot in just FOUR DAYS, bringing cancer patients from all over to show the reality of cancer as they embraced their scars, insisting that glossy, CELEBRITY-ENDORSED campaigns don’t raise awareness for cancer.
Vicky Saynor (43) from Hertfordshire, UK, questioned the representation of cancer patients in marketing campaigns which portray glossy models who are far removed from the reality of cancer, after the latest campaign by Fashion Against Breast Cancer called on women to show solidarity to beat breast cancer, with the hashtag #Bosombuddies trending online.
Alongside the hashtag, the campaign’s tagline ‘two is better than one’ attempts to highlight the importance of support and solidarity. However, this campaign has drawn criticism for its insensitivity to what people going through cancer experience, such as having one or both breasts removed.
The campaign was released on April 10, 2019 and is being promoted by high street retailers such as Marks and Spencer and River Island.
Vicky was diagnosed with grade 3 stage 1 breast cancer in November 2018 and underwent surgery just days before Christmas to remove the cancer. On December 31, 2018, Vicky began sharing her experience on @gammy_tit, allowing her to show the reality of cancer and connect with others.
Inspired by her want for cancer patients to be correctly represented in the media, Vicky started her own movement, aptly named True Cancer Bodies. Within three days, Vicky recruited 38 men and women, who have all been diagnosed with cancer, to gather for a photo shoot. Participants ranged from 26 to 57 years old, encompassing numerous cancers.
The photo shoot took place on April 14, 2019, in Hitchin, with participants travelling across the country to get involved. Photos show men and women smiling proudly, while others portray a solemn tone, reflecting both sides of cancer. Group photos show the models collectively as they bare all, embracing the emotional and physical scars they have been left with.
“I often felt completely un-represented by much of what I saw when it came to the campaigns surrounding cancer,” said Vicky.
“The use of glossy celebrities and happy, smiling models just doesn’t reflect the reality of what we, the cancer patients, and our families have to endure.
“Before my diagnosis last year, I simply thought that cancer awareness campaigns served a purpose to raise money for charities. I never looked at them and felt educated on the cancer they were supposedly supporting.
“Now that I have cancer, it seems like every other advert I see or hear is one for a cancer charity. I’m now tuned into what they’re saying and how they portray the disease. As such, I feel that so many of the campaigns miss the mark when it comes to representing the cancer community, or in encouraging early detection.
“The majority of campaigns are money centric, targeting the ‘healthy’ population to donate money. So, the campaigns are glossy, unoffensive, even playful. But when you’re going through cancer treatment, that’s the last thing you want to see.
“When I saw this #Bosombuddies campaign, I felt angry and disappointed. I was completely disengaged from it as it didn’t represent me or others I knew. Once again, models, celebrities and Instagram influencers were being used above real cancer stories in order to sell clothes.
“The wording was offensive – ‘two is better than one’ – how does that make a breast cancer patient feel? It’s utterly ridiculous and cruel.
“After seeing the campaign, I was energised to tell people the truth and to stop charities getting it so wrong. In order to build awareness of cancer, we need to show the disease and not hide it behind glossy adverts.”
The campaign is fronted by models including, Rachel Cooper-Kennedy, Lisa Fry, Laura Hughes, Nichola Hewitt, Emma Fisher, Eleni Welding, Zoe Robertson and Vicky herself who show what a true cancer body looks like.
The models have fought different cancers and have different scars to show from it. Craig Fountain (32) is currently battling bowel cancer and felt disappointed that #Bosombuddies was released during bowel cancer awareness month. Kate Worth (37) and Margaret Arama, who also took part, were also diagnosed with bowel cancer, which they don’t believe is discussed enough.
Charlie Taylor (33) was diagnosed with Burkitts lymphoma in 2018 and she admitted that media campaigns didn’t prepare her for what she had to go through because she had never been exposed to the reality of cancer before.
“If people really saw the pain, the suffering, the scars, stoma bags and hair loss, then they might be more likely to check themselves, and more likely to donate to charities. So, we decided to do a photoshoot of real cancer bodies,” said Vicky.
“I spread the message primarily through Instagram and Facebook, on @gammy_tit, and then it snowballed from there.
“We want campaigns to stop pretending cancer is fun, pink and fluffy. Celebrities should stand with us, not for us. Also, don’t dominate the spectrum with only the trendy cancers, such as breast cancer. We want to make sure charities and corporations include the not-so-sexy cancers, such as bowel, lung, anal and bone.
“A picture or a story of a real cancer body will be more powerful than a glossy, blonde celebrity playing with her friend’s hair for a breast cancer charity.”