Why are these men wearing bras on No Bra Day, you may be wondering? In their own words, they explain exactly why they are supporting East Anglian charity littlelifts in the middle of Breast Cancer Awareness Month
‘Four years ago I had just returned from a holiday abroad when I received a call that I will remember forever,’ says Pat Gilding, Director at BMA Specialist Coatings in Wroxham.
‘It was my Mum and she told me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I vividly remember feeling numb, I couldn’t contemplate it at all. For the next few days most of my close family were in a bit of a daze trying to make sense of it all, this horrible disease that had all of a sudden hit so close to home.
Mum, however, was resolute and vowed from the very start that, in her own words, ‘I’m going to beat this!’ What followed was several months of treatment with an operation to remove the tumour, then a course of chemotherapy followed by radio therapy.
Almost 10 months to the day of her diagnosis we received the amazing news that her cancer was in remission and she had beat it. The feeling of relief and elation after that phone call was indescribable. I don’t mind admitting I took myself off privately and had a little cry!
To me, Mum is the bravest woman in the world, how she faced her breast cancer. I am so incredibly proud of her and I can never effectively describe how much in words. She is still in remission to this day and only a few weeks ago was told her check-up scans were totally clear.
Just over two years ago I had the honour of becoming part of the littlelifts community. I’d heard about them from a good friend and I loved the concept of what they were doing and wanted to get involved and do some fundraising.
I contacted Oa and met her and Shopy to have a chat and go through some of my ideas. From that first meeting I was inspired by their energy and drive to help. That year I took part in a charity boxing match raising cash for this amazing cause.
‘Becoming part of the littlelifts community has been such an honour and what Oa and her team have achieved and continue to achieve is amazing and I am truly inspired by them. I would urge anyone out there to get involved with this amazing charity because I can truly say it has been an honour and privilege to be a part of.’
Paul Nichols is an Engineer from Stoke Holy Cross:
‘It seems that everyone may be impacted by breast cancer at some point in their lives, whether it’s supporting a loved one with a diagnosis or a friend. So I wanted to give support to the charity that delivers a gift of kindness and compassion when it is most needed. I have a predominantly female family with a wife, mother, sister and three beautiful daughters so I had bras-a-plenty of choose from!’
Tim Conway is the owner of Conway Electrical:
‘I come from a large family of three brothers and seven sisters and although none of my sisters have themselves been affected by breast cancer, a number of friends have, so when asked if I could wear a bra for the day in support of the campaign, I was more than happy to help.
I am also acutely aware of the impact that the recent Covid-19 outbreak has had on patients being able to get the care they require and for them to have the support of a great charity like littlelifts is going to be really key over the coming months.’
Glenn Sealey is General Manager from Yare Valley Oils (who kindly supply the chilli oil and lip balm found in the littlelifts boxes):
‘It’s an incredible cause and littlelifts is doing so much to help others feel empowered about something that has impacted so many of our lives in so many different ways. I’m happy to be involved and taking part, it should be a giggle for all involved.’
Charity, littlelifts was launched in 2017 by Founder Oa Hackett, who at aged 28 was diagnosed with primary breast cancer. Leading up to and during her chemotherapy treatment, Oa was fortunate to have a support network of friends and family to help her along the way, many of whom lifted those down days with a few little treats to relieve some of the side effects she experienced. The impact these small tokens had on Oa’s wellbeing was huge, and so the concept of ‘littlelifts’ was born.
Littlelifts provides complimentary boxes for women facing chemotherapy treatment with oncology and breast care teams at five hospital partnerships across Norfolk and Suffolk. This year, littlelifts is celebrating No Bra Day by asking women to trade wearing a bra for the day with the men in their lives.
Men can also experience breast cancer too and the charity hopes that the fundraiser will also raise awareness about breast cancer among men, which is an area littlelifts is working towards supporting in the future.
Oa says: ‘Empathy is an important quality to embody when supporting women with breast cancer. So we thought, one way to show a little solidarity and understanding with women enduring breast cancer treatment, is to ask men to walk in a woman’s shoes (or rather, brassiere) for the day.’
Supporting the campaign, Laura Middleton-Hughes (32) from Norwich, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 after finding a lump in her left breast while on a dream holiday to Australia.
She underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and a shoulder replacement, and today has traces of cancer in her spine, 12 vertebrae and pelvis. Her stage four disease is stable, but incurable. Littlelifts consulted Laura and other beneficiaries who have had breast cancer, when developing the theme of this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign.
Laura says: ‘Ever since I met Oa through our primary diagnosis, it was clear she had the drive to create something so successful. When she began littlelifts I knew it was something I would want to get involved in.
‘I have volunteered in many different ways for the charity and in 2019 received my own littlelifts box during my chemotherapy treatment. Since being re diagnosed I have become littlelifts’ ambassador, which I am really proud of.
‘Any way I can help raise the profile of littlelifts and make a difference to the lives of those going through chemotherapy for primary or secondary breast cancer is wonderful, and Oa knows I will rarely say no to anything she asks of me.’
Oa concludes: ‘For some women who have undergone a mastectomy, no longer wearing a bra can be a big adjustment, quite an emotional one and we (littlelifts) recognise this.
‘Our intentions for ‘No Bra Day’ is for men to show solidarity and to ultimately raise funds during this tricky time for many, so we can continue to support and show kindness to women impacted by breast cancer.’
Participants can set up a fundraising page via the littlelifts site: https://www.littlelifts.org.uk/get-involved/fundraise/ Fundraisers are being asked to capture their experience by taking pictures while tagging @littlelifts_uk on either Instagram, or Facebook #LittleliftsUnderShirts For more information go to https://www.littlelifts.org.uk/ or the campaign page https://www.littlelifts.org.uk/events/littlelifts-bra-day/
(Picture credits: James Rouse Photography)