Question Time – Lauren Mahon AKA Girl Stole London

Here at Chapter W we’re all for girl power, that’s why when we spotted a photo of nine of our favourite blogging babes on our Instagram feed we just had to find out more.

Not only did we both end up with the best slogan tee since this super sassy specimen, we also learnt all about the important message behind the most badass blog squad soiree we’ve ever set our eyes on, Lauren Mahon AKA Girl Stole London‘s cancer diagnosis and the unspoken reality that came with it.

Seeing Lauren’s amazing attitude to her diagnosis and wanting to do all we could to support her message, so we asked her if we could grab a chat, and being the total wonder woman she is, she agreed.

We’ve read all about it on your blog, but if you don’t mind telling our readers, how did your diagnosis come about? We hear all too often about people not discovering they have cancer until it’s too late, how did you realise something wasn’t right?

At the end of May I found a lump in my breast. I thought nothing of it, put it down to hormones. When the lump still hadn’t budged in July I took myself off for a check up and bish bash bosh in August I had cancer. In hindsight, I was feeling off all year, out of sync. I’d put it down to being hectic, but it was because my body was fighting a cancer I didn’t know I had.

What’s been the hardest thing about your diagnosis?

Having my life put on hold. Literally stopped in my tracks and being unable to be myself. Total lack of control.

Is chemo as scary as it sounds?

Chemo is shit. The shittest. But it’s the same as anything in life that’s hard – you grit your teeth and you get through it. It’s all about your mindset. You have to remember that your body is stronger than you think and that it’s all temporary.

Has there been anything that’s surprised you about your diagnosis?

A cancer diagnosis is a complex beast. There are SO many things that surprised me because as a society we are so uneducated about what a diagnosis actually means. From fertility treatment to financial worries. You never factor these things in because in the media the focus is on how crap chemo is and that it kills. I think more than anything, before my diagnosis I saw cancer as this big scary thing that kills everyone in it’s wake and now I see it as a curable illness.

Tell us how your BRILLIANT tit-tees came about?

Essentially, I wanted to raise awareness in a way that didn’t involve scaremongery and shock tactics. I’m quite a tongue-in-cheek individual, so thought what better way to generate conversation than by having slang terms for TITS slathered across your chest. I also wanted it to appeal to a younger audience as a lot of breast cancer info and awareness campaigns are aimed at an older crowd, however this disease affects women of all ages. That was important to me.

Tell us more about ‘NOT A PITY PARTY’ which sounded and looked ace by the way…

When my pals found out about the financial realities of my cancer diagnosis and how much I was terrified about losing my home they want to help. However, I’m not somebody that does charity or pity. Not at all. So instead, my wonderful friends put on one hell of a party and a massive raffle to help me to make ends meet. People paid to come and enjoy a kick-ass night rather than hand over money because they felt sorry for me. It was incredible. I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling overwhelmed.

How much did you know about cancer before you were diagnosed and how much have you learnt about it since your diagnosis?

I knew very little, like most people to be honest. It’s something that has always terrified me and so I buried my head in the sand. Now I am learning more each day and in doing so I am empowered and no longer living in fear. It’s not just the medical side, it’s the lifestyle aspect and the little things I never realised a diagnosis does to a patient both short and long term. From body image, to mental health, lifestyle changes and relationships, it’s so much more than an illness.

We loved the fact you got an amazing gang of blogger babes involved to shoot your brilliant tees, how important is it to surround yourself with women when you find yourself in a scenario like you’re currently in?

Well as it’s breast cancer, it’s women that relate most. I have a pretty strong sisterhood outside of my diagnosis and so having these women PLUS the hundreds more who have offered their support during this time has been phenomenal.

What’s the response been like to the GIRLvsCANCER movement? Did you expect it to get such a brilliant response?

Not in a million years! Not to this extent. It’s been overwhelming in the best way. People seem to love the idea and are enjoying cancer awareness being raised in a fun way. I think a lot of cancer info and awareness is aimed at an older audience, this seems to have reached a younger one. They relate to it more which is awesome, as I felt that there wasn’t much for me to relate to as a 30 year old woman when I was diagnosed.

If the GIRLvsCANCER movement could achieve one thing, what would you want it to be?

To empower and educate the population on the impact of cancer. I want people to be unafraid of the disease and more aware of their bodies so that early diagnosis is the priority.

If you could ask people to do just one thing to support GIRLvsCANCER, what would it be?

CHECK YOUR BITS! Know your body and be unafraid to discuss cancer and all its facets. The more we talk about it the less of a taboo it becomes.

You’ve mentioned on your blog about the financial implications of being diagnosed with cancer, can you tell us a little more about this?

Like most people, I didn’t realise that when it comes to critical illness and cancer that standard sick pay applies. There is no universal sick pay scheme for those with a cancer diagnosis. Essentially you’re treated the same as if you were off work with a sprained ankle. My employer paid me in full for a total of approximately six weeks, then I had to rely on Statutory Sick Pay which is only £353 a month.

Some employers will cover their staff for the entire treatment. It’s entirely discretionary. As you can imagine, this is a huge cause of stress at a time of crisis, and was the driving force behind me having to sell my GIRLvsCANCER Tit-Tees. I needed to pay rent and eat. I needed to survive.

If you could give one piece of advice to others who find themselves in your situation, what would it be?

Put simply, YOU GOT THIS. Do not fixate on what’s to come, focus on the now. Worrying won’t change a thing and will make you a lot sicker with stress. Think about right now, what you’re feeling now, what your symptoms are now. You cannot control the future so stay positive in the now.

A quote to live by…
Love all. Trust few. Do wrong to none.

A book to read forever…
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

What’s your favourite thing about being a woman?
Our bodies. They are powerful and sexual and amazing.

What’s your least favourite thing about being a woman?
Objectification. BIG time.

Name your three female role models…<
My Mother.
My Sister.
Cher.

You can read all about how this photoshoot came about, and Lauren’s important message about the financial implications of a cancer diagnosis over on Girl Stole London and grab your own GIRL vs CANCER T-shirt here.

Katherine Chambers
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