Here we are, at the beginning of Pink October, the annual French breast cancer awareness campaign, which has been running since 1985. Soon, we will be seeing little pink ribbons popping up everywhere.
To be perfectly honest, the little pink ribbon irritates me. My stepmother Gabrielle passed away from breast cancer at 54, and so my father became a widow and my young siblings lost their dear mother. I can assure you that the ribbon, so dainty and so pink, is the opposite of what this woman, her husband and their children went through.
The little pink ribbon irritates me because it participates in sort of vile pinkwashing, which transforms a serious, noble cause into an opportunistic marketing stunt that is nothing short of commercial.
The little pink ribbon irritates me because it’s associated with an array of product sales strategies which have nothing to do with cancer and deliver no relevant or intelligent information about it whatsoever.
A tiny percentage of the sales benefits are given to the cause and, as always, the twist capitalism puts on noble ideas yields wonderful results. Or not.
The little pink ribbon irritates me because it makes cancer seem less serious than it is and trivializes it through an overabundance of often irrelevant information. The campaign focuses on screening, and thus emphasizes the need to do regular mammography screenings. The latter is necessary but in my opinion, we don’t emphasize how important it is to visit your gynecologist frequently, or, even more obviously, to proceed to breast self-examinations, which are the easiest way of detecting if there is an issue.
I am irritated because the pain and harshness of breast cancer are flushed away. I have no wish to trivialize or glamourize cancer.
I want to talk about an illness, a serious illness that is tough and life changing, that, if survives, will leave one changed forever.
Even though I have not suffered from breast cancer, it has affected me. Indeed, as the famous saying goes, when one member of the family has cancer, the whole family has cancer. Beyond the impact of this personal tragedy, I feel increasingly concerned by breast cancer, out of sorority, out of maternity, because the numbers are alarming, and so are the predictions but with rigorous prevention, we could bring those numbers down.
Gabrielle did not escape cancer’s claws but another woman did: Isabelle Guyomarch.
Isabelle has been at the head of a factory that processes and produces cosmetics for many years. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, and once she had recovered, she decided to create a brand of cosmetics dedicated to women going through the ordeal of cancer: Ozalys.
Unless you’ve had cancer, you don’t know that applying your regular face cream can feel like sandpaper on your skin.
Unless you’ve had cancer, you don’t know that the oral mucosa is so raw that brushing your teeth causes unbearable pain.
Unless you’ve had cancer, you don’t know that a diagnosed woman is, de facto, excluded from the circle of life and must enter the infernal circle of survival. She must walk backwards through a tunnel, without knowing if she will emerge alive. The emotional, affective, social and professional costs are often enormous.
Unless you’ve had cancer, you don’t know that a diagnosed woman is, de facto, excluded from the circles of beauty and femininity. Indeed, the first and most obvious damage is physical. Flesh in its most feminine forms is mutilated and hair – another attribute of femininity – falls. And there is no specific cosmetology for these women.
Until Ozalys. Founded in 2017, Ozalys’s purpose is to bring these women back into the circles of beauty and femininity.
A laboratory of team of seven researchers and endless months of research and development were necessary in order to elaborate a range of moisturizing and personal hygiene products of the highest quality, made for women who are going through or have been through cancer.
Everything was made in order to make their lives simpler and more beautiful, be it with 3 in 1 products (the face cream is a day cream, a night cream and has anti-ageing properties, and all for a very reasonable price) or with products that are user-friendly. Isabelle remembers a time when her arms hurt so much that she couldn’t open her face cream, without mentioning her crumbling nails.
Anything that was necessary was evacuated.
The packaging was also studied for a very long time: creams in tubes are actually in an internal food pouch, meaning that there is no contact with the plastic. The tubes’ openings are equipped with non-return valves, meaning that there is no external contamination.
Is it ridiculous to want to make these women’s lives more beautiful whilst they go through hell? Not at all, because every gesture counts when it comes to bringing these women back into the magic circle.
Going through this illness and surviving will leave you different, that is the nature of human resilience. Accepting, accompanying the protocols, not bracing yourself and letting the illness come through you without letting it come over you requires an immense emotional effort which changes women who go through it forever.
Isabelle, beyond her line of dermo-cosmetics, wanted to create a whole environment to accompany, or rather to envelop these women who are fighting, just like she once fought.
She wrote a book called “Fighting Lady” in which she describes the ordeal she went through without taboos.
She talks about her illness on the blog section of the Ozalys website.
She organizes annual symposiums. This year, for Pink October 2019, she’s decided to go to the heart of the subject. Instead of trivializing breast cancer, Isabelle organizes an event which invites everyone to discover what cancer is from a sensorial perspective. Indeed, understanding is often the best motor for action.
It is often said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That is true, but I would add that it also makes you different.
My stepmother Gabrielle is the best example of this: once she had understood that the end was near – and she understood it before anyone else – she was never the same women again, spreading a message of love and appeasement to her friends and family, transcending herself and arming herself with a superhuman strength that made her eternal. She went above and beyond herself, which is the definition of an accomplished life.
Isabelle is the best example as well: she will never be the same woman that she was before breast cancer and that’s alright, because such is the way of life. She decided to make the most of her experience by using it to benefit others, and that is the definition of an accomplished life.
Because life is synonymous with perpetual change. Accepting this and transcending oneself is what growing is all about.
Forget the pink ribbon and come to Ozalys’s event. It will be taking place on the 4th and 5th of October, Studio des Acacias in the 17th district of Paris. There, Ozalys will invite you to discover the physical and emotional reality of the illness through a multi-sensorial experience. Ozalys beauticians will also be offering free treatments, by booking only.
Go straight to the core of the subject and think about prevention.
To Gabrielle, to Isabelle, and to all the fighters.
October 2, 2019