15/10/2015 07:28 BST | Updated 09/10/2016 06:12 BST



Breast cancer charities don't have an easy job, do they? Last week saw M&S chastised by breast cancer sufferers and survivors for overtly connecting the disease with sex to sell lingerie (and hopefully raise money for Breast Cancer Awareness at the same time). Read here why #ShowYourStrap exposed not just bra straps but also an insensitive marketing campaign. This week we're gratefully alerted to an altogether more authentic campaign for this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, by a charity that my sister has actually used: The Haven.

In case you haven't heard of The Haven, it provides FREE psychological and complementary medical support to those going through "the intolerable side effects of breast cancer treatment". In this way the charity ensures ('cos it's FREEEE!) that sufferers are supported and not alone. This means counselling, massage, sauna too. Just how cool are these people? Just how valuable is this service?

The Haven, along with Savannah Miller, designer, and ASOS, online retail outlet, have initiated a social media campaign promoting a t-shirt to raise money for the work they do. You buy the t-shirt here, put it on, take a selfie, and put it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Vine with the hashtag #NeverByMySelfie.

Now for why this hashtag appeals to me...

Let me come clean. I'm a Buddhist and have been for years. There's a famous joke about the Dalai Llama: what kind of pizza does the Dalai Lama order? Answer: One with Everything! The wisdom behind the jest is that Buddhists believe, that at the very core of our lives, we are all one. Check out the 'theory of dependent origination' here, but basically, in my everyday life it translates that I cannot really be happy and at ease unless those around me are also happy and at ease. This is why The Haven's #NeverByMySelfie campaign for raising funds to do their work reaches places other campaigns haven't reached. It feels real, it feels true, it feels human.

When my younger sister was diagnosed with Grade 3 breast cancer at the age of 41 and had a bilateral mastectomy, and my Mum aged 71 was diagnosed with Grade 3 breast cancer just the next month, (lumpectomy and all her lymph nodes removed on that side), it wasn't possible for me to feel happy knowing how very much they were suffering. Let no-one convince you this "Pinktober" that anything about breast cancer, or its treatment, is pink and fluffy. It is tears, it is vomit, it is blood, it is pain, it is a change in personality, it is - frankly - the pits. Illness is a great isolator if one lets it be, and I was determined that neither of them should feel alone with fear and pain if I could help it. This wasn't always possible (obviously), but knowing they were suffering alone only increased my own suffering. That's mutual interdependence for you!

Just for the record, they have both survived, not necessarily intact, but survived they have. And, of course, Loose Debra (a way to find great clothes for a flat chest) is one of the effects of the journey. We keep it light but real, fashionable but hopefully not too frivolous, and we seem to have gotten away with not attracting too many pervs (well, come on, a website about not wearing bras!) as yet.

So, breast cancer charities don't have an easy job, trying to attract support and funds without offending, whilst keeping it real. But we think The Haven, illuminating the kind of support and service they offer with #NeverByMySelfie, are really on the money.


Nicola and I had a lot of fun wearing the Tees and doing some pics for this Blog. Nicola is a breast cancer survivor herself, and writes a brilliant Blog about growing through cancer,.


I'm wearing the wild horses one (all about freedom) and Nic's wearing the beautiful butterflies (letting go!). I have to 'fess up that we are both wearing bras due to the potential see-through nature of a white T-shirt - not something we'd normally promote on Loose Debra, but these Tees are gorgeous, soft and long, and sold for the best of causes.

You can get your own limited edition @Savannah Miller at Asos tee here. £10 goes to The Haven. Show your support by buying one, putting it on, and posting a selfie with the hashtag that actually means something, #NeverByMySelfie.