Every year, 50,000 women and 350 men are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK alone. Whilst it’s a shocking statistic, more people are surviving than ever before – the current rate of survival is an incredible 50%. Cambridge’s Pink Week raised £35,000 last year in support of breast cancer, and on the 23rd of March, Edinburgh will be the first city to host a Pink Week event in Scotland.
I was lucky to catch the president of the Edinburgh Pink Week committee Amy Dingemans, to talk about her hopes for the event and the future of breast cancer charity work. “In Cambridge,” she says, “there’s a ball, and a whole week of other activities like talks, yoga classes, and educational workshops. Hopefully we will bring these to Edinburgh over the next couple of years, but for now we’re starting with the ball and raising some money for local Edinburgh cancer charities.”
The very first Pink Week was started by Nina Rauch, whose family was affected by breast cancer. The organisation has spread at an unprecedented rate, which is hopefully a reflection of the public’s readiness to tackle cancer head-on.
Edinburgh’s upcoming ball looks to be an exciting event featuring some excellent local talent: “we’ve got one of the University’s a cappella societies, Noteorious, performing! It’s always great to have students perform, as student music opportunities are quite slim at the moment. Later on we’ll have Hot Tin Roof up, who normally play at the Jazz Bar. We’re thrilled to have them, and these two groups will hopefully give something a bit different to the usual ceilidh-and-dinner formula.”
It’s not all music, though – “there will be a raffle to fundraise for our charity partners, and later on, an afterparty at 4042 in Tolcross, which will definitely keep the party going!”
There’s definitely a divide in that the students feel very separate from the rest of the community. It would be great to use charity as something that unites us
Indeed, the charity partners are the driving motivation of the event. Dingemans talks about their partner Maggie’s Edinburgh, an organisation providing support across the country. “Their Edinburgh centre is actually where it all started, where Maggie herself was treated. I visited the centre and spoke their chief exec, and it’s really inspiring to see all the work they’re doing. It’s so much more than just supporting people with cancer there. It’s also a lot about their friends and family, which is great as we often forget just how many people are affected by each diagnosis.”
Maggie’s provide a variety of different activities, including meditation classes, cookery, and general group work to foster a relaxed and open atmosphere. They also offer financial advice, which is an aspect of cancer treatment that is seldom talked about.
Pink Week, in short, hopes to contribute to the excellent work that charities like Maggie’s are carrying out. One of Dingemans’ crucial aims for the Edinburgh event is to bring our city’s students together with the broader population. “Although it’s a slightly different issue,” she says, “there’s definitely a divide in that the students feel very separate from the rest of the community. It would be great to use charity as something that unites us.
We want people to understand that you don’t need to be embarrassed to talk about it all.
“I know that a lot of students want to do more and give back to their community, but it’s oddly quite hard to do. A lot of it is just giving money, of course, which is a good starting point, but it would be nice that as we build relationships with the charities through volunteering, that it becomes more of a community effort between students and local people.”
Bringing students into the world of cancer awareness seems a difficult undertaking, however. Cancer, and breast cancer especially, seem to be topics reserved for doctors or the middle-aged. Dingemans recognises this, and hopes to change the state of things. “We’re hoping to perhaps have a talk at the ball about the risks to young people. There are a lot more young people affected than people realise – something like 50% of us will get cancer at some point in our lives, which is a terrifying statistic but shows how important it is that everyone be aware. You never think it’s going to be you. For us, Pink Week is about changing that mentality, getting people to go to the doctor, talk to their friends, check their boobs. These things are still quite stigmatised and we’re trying to create more conversation around it. We want people to understand that you don’t need to be embarrassed to talk about it all.”
To this end, the Pink Week ball promises a night of great music and good food, in service of a truly important cause. Tickets for the ball are on sale now – click here to find out more.
Breast cancer charities in Edinburgh:
About breast cancer:
Signs and symptoms
- A change in size or shape of the breast
- A lump or thickening that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue
- Redness or a rash on the skin and/or around the nipple
- A change in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling
- Discharge from the nipple without squeezing
- Nipple becoming inverted, changing its position, changing its shape
- Swelling in the armpit or around the collarbone
- Constant pain in the breast or armpit
What to do if you notice a change
- Most changes are likely to be normal or due to a benign breast condition
- If you notice a change, visit a GP as soon as possible