Real?

Summer camping at Hill Holt Wood with Ronnie.

I’ve just been away on a short camping trip with Ronnie in a beautiful wood in Lincolnshire. We had one night alone and then spent the next two days with a group of people from Hackney Community Transport who we’ve been working with over the last seven months on their ‘social enterprise champions’ project. A fabulous experience. And it didn’t rain!

Back at home, and I’m going through my emails and there is one titled ‘Sad news about Jane Smith’. No, Jane Smith is not her real name, but she could be one of thousands of women like me, who’s being diagnosed with breast cancer in their early 40s.

I know immediately that she has died. Of secondary breast cancer. Of course, the email does not mention that, it says she had ‘a long illness’. We are spared the details. I feel so many mixed emotions. Including anger. Continue reading

“What we love, we must protect.”


Sunday. I’m on the train from Liverpool to London. This time last year I’d just had my sixth surgery as part of my treatment for breast cancer.
This time last week I hadn’t found the funding for the trip to Brussels. And I felt deflated and momentarily thought, ‘Oh that’s it I’m not going. Oh well, I don’t mind.’ But I did mind. There are some things you have to do.
And so with only seven days to go before the event, I ask my friends for help. I ask on Facebook, I ask my email list – can you give me fiver to get to European Parliament? And they do. I raise over £400. So I am on my way. Thank you everyone.
I could do a million other things, but I’m not, I’m choosing to do this one single thing – to get to Brussels.
Monday. Eurostar. Brussels. It is starting to snow now and it’s very cold and windy. The European Parliament is enormous. The list of participants shows people from a range of European organisations working in health and cancer, plus six MEPs. I introduce myself to Sandra Steingraber, the American environmental scientist who’s had cancer, who we’re here to see, and I give her a copy of my book.
In European Parliament
In the seminar room and it’s like every picture you’ve ever seen of a European Parliament room. Translation booths all around it, NL, IT, ES, DE and so on illuminated in big red digital letters. Microphones and headphones at every seat. Even the cups and saucers have the European flag printed on them.
Sandra is introduced by the Finnish MEP Sirpa Pietikainen. Then Sandra talks about the new study of epigenetics. That some chemicals can alter the expression of genes, so they create a pathway to tumour formation. She talks about her experience of being a cancer patient. The long walk from the car park to the hospital. I’ve been there. Different hospital, same sense of isolation and darkness.
She says we can’t change our ancestors but we can change our environment. It’s rational. She says, “What we love we must protect. That’s what love means.”
In the panel discussion I ask a question. I speak as a patient, as a person who feels that change must happen, so what can I do? Sandra says it’s all about policy. Changing policy. That our governments must protect us and we have to have carcinogens being de-normalised by governments.
Sandra Steingraber

And yes, this is a good event. But it makes me realise how slowly things change, how slow it is to get legislation changed. Science to policy.

Tuesday. I travel back to London and then to Liverpool. 53 hours away from home, 20 hours travelling and three hours in the European Parliament.


When I get home I receive an email telling me that everyone was very impressed with my determination to get to Brussels. And that everything has repercussions. That it will make a difference.
It’s good to be part of change.




You can see this blog post as a short film (three minutes) here:


“What we love, we must protect.” from Sarah Horton on Vimeo.