Tuesday, 27 November 2012

What Katie's Doing Next...

It was early one morning last June; I was settled into my usual seat on the bus to work (third row from the front, in the middle, next to the window- in case you're wondering), about to open up that day's copy of the Metro. So far, so normal. 

That was, until I happened upon an article about a 21 year old University Student named Katie Huttlestone who, the month before, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I'll admit, it was the accompanying picture that immediately caught my eye. Now, I don't know about you, but it's not often I'm confronted with an image of a very pretty lady in a bright pink bra at 8am in the morning. 

I'm almost ashamed now to confess that my first thought was, 'gorgeous bra, I wonder where she got it?' followed swiftly by 'what beautiful eyes, I wish mine were like that'.

And then I read the headline. And the article proper. I was mortified at the shallowness of my initial response.

Here was a girl who had been told, just four weeks earlier, that she had breast cancer, had completed her first Chemotherapy treatment and was having to completely readjust to a new post-diagnosis life and what the coming weeks and months would hold for her, and I'd been wondering where she'd bought her underwear? I considered myself suitably chastised.

As I read further I was informed that Katie would be video blogging her experience of  fighting breast cancer, from diagnosis, through to treatment and beyond.

I was struck by her determination, her spirit and her wish to get it all out there, warts and all. 

Many people are still under the apprehension that breast cancer is an older person's disease. Nearly half of all cases, according to Cancer Research UK, occur in women aged 50-69 but, alarmingly, it's the most common cancer diagnosed in Britain in women under 39, and in the 20-24 age group there are an average of 31 cases diagnosed per year.

The idea that it doesn't strike pre-menopause is outdated and fallacious. As Katie is testimony to.

I got off the bus that morning, and carried on my day, but Katie's story stuck with me- I too was in my 20s (albeit the wrong end of them!) and it really struck a chord with me. I vowed to look up her videos, after all, it was the least I could do, plus, she was more far far more of an inspiration to me (and many others) than any talent-less wannabe z-lister could ever hope to be.

Her video diary was honest, brutal and incredibly moving. As promised she pulled no punches, and it was incredibly refreshing to find an account of serious illness that was open, candid and completely unsanitised to spare the sensibilities of folk who would prefer such things be kept hidden away, behind closed doors. To them disease and disability is something that doesn't happen. The body beautiful should be just that: beautiful. No imperfections, no blemishes, no inadequacies. And, certainly, no cancer.

But Katie paid no heed and her diary was a revelation. I checked back as often as I could for updates and I often wondered, over the following year, how she was getting on.

One mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and several rounds of Chemotherapy later she is on fighting form. When I joined Twitter, her's was one of the first names I searched for. And this, dear readers, brings me to the present day.

It's through following Katie (and no, not in the way that might require a restraining order!), that I have learnt of her latest endeavour. Kate's Cleavage is her frank and captivating memoir about living with and battling breast cancer at the age of 21. As with her video diary, Katie's warmth and wit are evident by the bucket load and it promises to be a fascinating and life-affirming read. The twist? (you didn't see that coming, did you?) Kate's Cleavage is due to be published by Unbound. A site that, in it's own words:

"allows you to listen to their ideas for what they'd like to write before they even start. If you like their idea, you can pledge to support it. If we hit the target number of supporters, the author can go ahead and start writing (if the target isn't met you can either get your pledge refunded in full or switch your pledge to another Unbound project)."

Kate's Cleavage currently has 10% of the pledges needed to get it published. It needs 441 more. And this is where you come in. It would be a travesty if it was unable to reach its pledge target and not find it's audience. It's such a unique book, such a unique project, and for such a vital cause, that I firmly believe anyone who can do, should support it.

You can pledge from £10 up to £100. The higher the amount you pledge, the greater the rewards for the Pledgee.

Instead of picking one of the usual suspects from the traditional pre-Christmas literary offerings (I'm looking at you Jamie Oliver), why not pledge towards the publication of Kate's Cleavage

If you'd like to pledge, you can do so here: Unbound- Kate's Cleavage.

Tell your friends to pledge, your family, your distant cousins in deepest darkest Outer Mongolia, even tell your Postman. In fact, stop strangers in the street and tell them. OK, maybe not that last one, but if you can get the word, and the link, out there, please do.

I know that Katie will thank you for it....


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