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Cancer survivor 'copping a belting'

No make-up selfies have 'raised quite a lot of money' for charity but journalist Kim Stephens says they are a "slap in the face" for cancer patients.

PT4M41S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-35vnf 620 349

A week ago, when I unleashed my one-time cancer patient anger on the no make-up selfie social media phenomenon, not for a second could I imagine it would go viral.

Within 24 hours the rant was being read by people across the world. Within a few days it had become the most read story in Fairfax Media's digital history.

As of Thursday night, nearly two million people had clicked on it.

Brisbane Times reporter Kim Stephens (right) and during chemotherapy (left).

Brisbane Times reporter Kim Stephens (right) and during chemotherapy (left).

A quarter of that number, 510,000 to be exact, shared it on Facebook.

None of those figures really matter that much to me.

The thing that matters is that women suffering through the hell of chemotherapy were given a voice.

Lady Gaga's no make-up selfie.

Lady Gaga's no make-up selfie.

At the time of writing the article I concede I was unaware it had been such an unparelleled fundraising success in the UK, raising enough in just a few days to fund 10 clinical trials.

Yet I unflinchingly stand by my argument the no make-up selfie campaign was misguided and destructive.

The damage caused to the already precarious psychological and emotional wellbeing of cancer patients through a widespread phenomenon such as this cannot be dismissed simply because it has raised a lot of money.

Beyonce's no make-up selfie.

Beyonce's no make-up selfie.

I am yet to understand how anyone ever linked posting a bare-faced selfie with cancer, how it was ever thought to be brave or in some way proving solidarity with cancer patients.

A lot of criticism of my original article, much of it extraordinarily personal, has been hurled for pushing that point.

"You bitter bitch, without money for cancer research you would be dead," went one email.

Pop star Ricki Lee's no make-up selfie.

Pop star Ricki Lee's no make-up selfie.

I can't deny that.

"Stop wearing your cancer like it's some kind of qualification," wrote a Brisbane Times commenter, who furthermore took the opportunity to brand me a "sub-par journalist".

There were many, many more comments like those, a large portion of them unprintable.

But never in my life have I been so happy to cop such criticism.

By channelling my own rage, I unwittingly spoke for women so defeated by their treatment regimes, so emotionally deflated by the unrecognisable reflection that confronts them in the mirror each day, they could not speak up to tell the world how much these pictures were hurting them.

"THANK YOU for your article," one such woman wrote.

"I'm 41 and have been having treatment for breast cancer over the past few months. I'm finished now but trying to pick up the pieces of what's left of me emotionally and physically. I lost my breasts and my hair still hasn't grown back. I used to love dressing up and putting on make-up and playing with my hair, my Facebook page was filled with pics of me smiling and having fun, now I rarely look at myself in the mirror.

"I know the make-up free selfies are for a good cause but my heart sinks when I see another Facebook picture of someone being 'brave' as I would give anything to be able to take my makeup off and be photographed and have that be my biggest challenge."

My main opposition to this self-indulgent campaign was, and remains, that women were blithely professing their bravery for posting photos of their bare-faced - but still exceedingly healthy and attractive - faces.

By doing so, they were unknowingly making the most horrendous time of a cancer patient's life even harder.

I concede most did it with good intentions.

My aim was not to detract from their good deed but to make them aware of the potentially damaging consequences of it.

More and more, recognition is growing in the medical field that treating cancer is not just about treating the disease, it's about treating the patient.

The same principle should apply to fundraising or awareness campaigns.

A fundamental consideration of this thought bubble that went viral should have been what the impact a stream of no make-up selfies in Facebook feeds would have on women enduring chemotherapy.

I do feel the response from cancer patients vindicates my position and, in the end, it is they who matter most.

And, I might add, I haven't seen a single make-up free selfie in the past week.

In the spirit of the original intention of this campaign, if you were one of the 500,000 people who shared my original story, please donate just $2 to Cure Cancer Australia. Tag your friends and encourage them too.