I am Spartacus. So are you.

In the next day or so, you’re going to be naked, fondling your privates and thinking of me.

A good old friend from college dropped me a line yesterday to tell me she has breast cancer. Yet another name to sadly chalk up on the list.

My brother, my grandfather, a great friend’s mum, a great friend’s dad, a school buddy’s mum, a handful of my wife’s friends, my neighbour’s father, that kid at school, that cyclist friend’s wife, that celebrity, that chap from my old job…

When I used to train charities on communications, I would remind them about the power of statistics. Around 33% of people will get cancer, I would say. But how much more powerful is that figure when really made stark for your readers:

If there are three people in your car, one of them will get cancer.

I read those Macmillan Cancer Support billboards too. And like most, I wiped my brow, shook my head and thanked my lucky stars it wasn’t me, my kids or my friends.

And then it was.

We laughed off the lump in my brother’s shoulder, right up until the doctor said it was lymphoma. My college friend read my blog, felt sad, then got on with her life. Until she found a lump.

We think it won’t happen to us, but the truth is this: it already has.

We may not all have the disease itself, but we all – every one of us – has cancer. It will affect every single one of us, one way or another. It’s not called the ‘Big C’ for nothing.

We may not be able to prevent single cases, but we can reduce our risk. And we can all do something to reduce prevalence of the disease as a whole.

We can all be Spartacus.

It took me five months to get my seizures checked out. If we’re feeling a bit off, if there’s a mole that keeps itching, a lump we’re not sure about, a headache that just won’t go away, we can go to the doctors. And we can insist that it’s taken seriously.

We can consider and amend our lifestyle choices: what we eat, what we inhale, what we drink, how much we exercise. Or we can at least read up on the risks, making our choices with eyes wide open.

We can give money or time to medical research charities, join in a fundraising event, sponsor a friend, pass out some leaflets, subscribe to their updates. We can inform ourselves about cancer, how it works, what it does, and what is happening worldwide to tackle it.

We can tell our friends, talk, question, reassure, support. We can offer others our experiences, or ask for help from those who feel able to share theirs.

And we can give ourselves a little check over from time-to-time.

Actually, not from time-to-to-time. We can give ourselves a check today. When you take a shower tonight or tomorrow morning, have a really good feel around.

Balls, boobs, blemishes.

Ask your partner – if you have one – to have a feel around for you. Then return the favour. And while you’re doing it, don’t forget to think of me.

How to check your testicles (not safe for work)
How to check your breasts (not safe for work)


  1. Gez’s nephew, (one of 40 or so) shrugged off feeling rough for six months. Like with Daz, his Doctor also said he was wasting NHS time and he was “just growing”. Yeh, right. Just growing a bit of Lukemia which is going to take at least two and a half years to treat. My best friend’s wife died at 38 just 9 years ago of breast cancer. It took him 4 years to find someone to love again. She died on 29th February this year of breast cancer. I was sent a mamogram appointment about six months prior and we were all having dinner the next week. I didn’t want to go but couldn’t look her in the face over brandy and coffee without keeping that appointment. Did it hurt? By billio yes, but not as much as loosing someone you love.

  2. often people wait too long. its called an ‘open and close’ when they open them up, see that they’re riddled with it and realise that all there is to do is close them up again.

    my grandfather, my grandmother, my mother-in-law, two friends’ dads, another friend’s partner… keep writing this stuff – its really important.

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