LIFESTYLE
05/10/2015 06:37 BST | Updated 05/10/2015 06:59 BST

Breast Cancer Survivors Show Surgery Scars In Response To M&S And Breast Cancer Now's #ShowYourStrap Campaign

A number of sufferers have now bravely bared their mastectomy scars under their own campaign called #ShowYourScar.

The campaign, which has been gathering momentum over Twitter, has seen an outpouring of support from all over the country.

The idea was created by a group of women who became friends after joining online support group the Younger Breast Cancer Network.

"I was in the waiting room about to have my second mastectomy when I saw everybody start discussing the idea for the campaign," said Kim Feast, 31, of Yardley, Hampshire, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year at just 30 years old.

kim feast

"I decided to post a picture straight after the operation to show the true face of cancer. I was nervous to upload it at first, but then I thought, 'After everything I've faced, why not?'

"Thankfully, the response has been really positive so far, and I hope it stays that way.

"The #showyourstrap campaign struck me as insensitive.

"What about people who've had double mastectomies and don't wear bras? Or men? Breast cancer affects them too, and none of them have bra straps to show."

mastectomy

Kim Feast uploaded a photo of her double mastectomy scar

The #showyourscar movement is running alongside #showyourstrap, a campaign started by Marks and Spencer to raise money for charity Breast Cancer Now.

The campaign, which encourages people to snap a selfie with their bra strap on display and donate £3 to vital cancer research, also coincides with a special 19 piece lingerie collection, designed as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Though the campaign has garnered support from big names such as model Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley and Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams, it has faced some backlash.

Taking to Twitter earlier this week, one breast cancer survivor wrote: "How about #showyourscar instead of your strap. That's the reality of breast cancer - scars. Not straps!"

The idea struck a chord with those who have had their breasts surgically removed to prevent cancer recurrences, and soon Twitter was inundated with pictures of women bravely displaying their scars.

Ms Feast's sentiments have been echoed by 41-year-old Charlotte Short, who is currently fighting stage 4a breast cancer.

"I'd like to see more in the way of educating people on the signs of breast cancer and what to look out for, not just pictures of beautiful women who still have both their bosoms," she said.

"The lingerie that's been designed for Breast Cancer Awareness Month is all very pretty, it's just a shame there's only one bra in the whole range suitable for women like me who've not had reconstructive surgery. Are we not worthy?"

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However, other people whose lives have been touched by the disease, such as 22-year-old Lauren Bolus, who is due to undergo a double mastectomy in January after medics discovered she had the BRCA1 gene, have spoken out in support of #showyourstrap.

Miss Bolus, of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, lost both her mother and grandmother to breast cancer.

Also praising the Marks and Spencer campaign is Frances Haworth, 44, from Tooting, south London, who was diagnosed with grade three, stage one triple negative breast cancer in 2010.

After finding out she carried the BRCA2 gene mutation, she underwent a preventative double mastectomy without reconstruction.

"I wasn't offended when I saw the #ShowYourStrap campaign; I have two scars from my double mastectomy and I never went on to have a reconstruction," she said.

"I often wear a post-surgery bra with prosthesis and have no objection to showing my strap – if it helps raise awareness and raise money then I am proud to back it.

"Having just heard about the #ShowYourScar campaign on social media, I also completely support this too – I am extremely proud of my scars and they signify a crucial moment in my life.

"Breast cancer affects so many different people in so many different ways, and I think it's important that we all remember this – people show their support in their own way."

As well as showing the world what breast cancer truly looks like, Ms Short, Ms Feast and the ten other women they have been campaigning alongside are keen to see better lingerie options for post-surgery patients.

"More needs to be done for people like us," said Ms Feast. "At the moment, most post-surgery lingerie is grey or beige and unfashionable.

"We don't need a daily reminder of what we've been through. Why can't we have pretty, feminine designs too?"

Ms Short added: "There are a few companies out there offering more of a choice, but bras can cost upward of £50.

"I'm a mum-of-two, I can't justify that expense. And what's more, I shouldn't have to pay more just because I wear a prosthetic."

Company director Diane Riley-Waite, 33, of Birmingham, was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in July 2014 and is currently in remission

danielle

Diane Riley-Waite

She was showering when she noticed a lump in her right breast.

A week later she visited her GP and was immediately referred to the breast clinic at Russell Hall Hospital at Dudley in the West Midlands.

There she had an ultrasound and was referred for a mammogram.

The lump was a cyst but behind it was breast cancer.

"It's lucky I got the cyst," she said. "As a result of it the cancer was detected early and it hasn't spread.

"I had chemotherapy, radiotherapy and I am now on Tamoxifen tablets.

"I asked for a mastectomy and doctors said it was not necessary so I had a lumpectomy.

"The shape of my right breast totally changed though as a result of the lumpectomy.

"The scar from radiotherapy also changed the shape of my breast."

danielle

Danielle Riley-Waite

Mrs Riley-Waite said she was all for people raising money for cancer charities but this "sexualised" of breast cancer.

"I'm all for people raising money for breast cancer," she said. "I don't think the campaign's malicious but I do think it's short-sighted.

"They have no idea of the reality of breast cancer.

"Cancer is not about showing your breast strap or looking sexy it's people dying.

"Two of my friends the same age have died of breast cancer.

"The reality is vomit and you go bald and your fingernails fall out.

"It's not pretty and it's not pink."

Between them, the women behind #showyourscar have endured mastectomies, radiotherapy and countless rounds of chemotherapy.

They became close friends throughout their battles, united by the fact that they were all facing breast cancer at a remarkably young age.

As part of Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Younger Breast Cancer Network have launched #nottooyoung, sharing one or more members stories every day to give their supporters a voice and highlight the heartbreaking diagnoses they've faced.

Writing on Facebook, the founders of the group network: "We want people to understand that breast cancer isn't pink and fluffy, it doesn't always respond to treatment and it isn't something that only affects women after the menopause, it's a very real threat to younger women."

Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Now, says: "We know that each person's experience of breast cancer is unique; views and experiences of women affected by breast cancer are very important to us, which is why we worked with women affected by the disease in different ways, to launch this partnership with M&S.

"Women and men affected by breast cancer will naturally want to show their support for the cause in a way that works for them. However they choose to express themselves – whether by showing their strap, showing their scar, running a marathon, holding a pink party or making a donation – we appreciate them enormously.

"50,000 women are still being diagnosed each year in the UK which is why fundraising into cutting-edge research is vitally important.

"We're so grateful that M&S has pledged to raise £13 million over the next five years. With their help our scientists will be able to take our knowledge of breast cancer prevention to the next level."

A spokesperson for Marks and Spencer said: "Our new campaign with Breast Cancer Now features women affected by the disease and encourages others to show their support.

"#ShowYourStrap is about raising money, awareness and ultimately showing solidarity. It is part of our commitment to raising £13 million over the next five years to fund vital research into breast cancer prevention."