Breast cancer awareness: "I won’t be cured, but I won’t let that stop me from helping others"
"It's that feeling like you're drowning."
Breast cancer isn't just pink - it can be a whole range of colours and feelings, depending on who is living with it, and the people it is affecting.
For this year's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Marie Keating Foundation is challenging the "colour of cancer" and drawing attention to the stark realities of conditions like breast cancer.
Patient advocate Mary Bodley is currently living with advanced breast cancer. The Dublin-based mother explains that for her, breast cancer is "sea-blue."
"It's that feeling like you're drowning and sometimes that you're as free as the blue sea itself," she says.
"I really miss being strong. I miss promising my kids I'll bring them to Dundrum Town Centre, because when it's time to go, I can't.
"Simple things like my daughter sitting at the side of my bed, telling me about her first day in senior school. To me that lifts my heart, incredibly so. Unfortunately I won't be there to see her do her Junior Cert. I know that. She doesn't know that yet."
Mary says that she can't accept that she isn't going to beat breast cancer. "You feel like you're going to fight it, you're going to be cured from it and it's going to be gone," she says.
"So why should I accept it? I'm not going to let it in, but it's in me now. And whether I like it or not, I'm not going to be cured. I still don't accept it, I don't want it there."
In Ireland, one in 10 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
The most common cancer for women, each year approximately 3,351 cases are diagnosed, and sadly 728 people die. However, early detection and advances in treatment mean that breast cancer now has a five-year survival rate of 85%.
Marie Keating Foundation CEO and breast cancer survivor Liz Yeates says that although breast cancer is usually synonymous with the colour pink, sometimes the reality is much darker.
"With this campaign, we have put the patient voice and experience first, where it should be, and hope it will open up a much-needed debate on the ‘colour of cancer’," she says.
"Not everyone feels ‘pink’ at all times, and that’s okay! We know how unique each person’s experience is, and we understand how difficult cancer can be. We are here to support patients at every stage, from bright to darker moments, and everything in between.”
Mary adds that although her breast cancer is advanced, she is working with the charity to help as many people as she can.
"My reality is that I won’t be cured, but I won’t let that stop me from helping others," she says, "by talking about the importance of breast cancer awareness, screening and services which are crucial to so many families across the country, including mine.”