Pink Week 2017: ‘Putting the fun in fundraising!’

A look into one of the biggest charity events in Cambridge.

breast cancer Cambridge Cambridge University Cancer charity fundraising interview pink week Student

Every forty-five minutes, someone in the United Kingdom will die from breast cancer. Over the course of their lives, one in eight women will be diagnosed with it – and one in a thousand men too. It’s almost a certainty that, at some point, someone you know will get it.

For some, these statistics are not just sobering facts but are a call to action. Since 2011, a student-led campaign has been underway – at Cambridge and at many other universities around the country – against breast cancer. It’s called Pink Week, and last year it raised £24,000 for a variety of charities working towards cures for breast cancer as well as care and support for those affected by the disease. The Tab spoke to Pink Week’s President, Olivia Buckland, about the biggest charity event of Lent Term.

‘Pink Week was founded in 2011 by Nina Rauch, at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Girls School in London, in celebration of her late mother Dina Rabinovitch, the Guardian journalist, author, and breast-cancer activist.’ Olivia says. ‘Dina’s strength and hustling to raise awareness, during her illness was and has remained a constant inspiration for us and we are working hard to keep her legacy alive. Nina brought Pink Week to Clare College, and it just grew and grew.’

And it’s continuing to grow. This year there are 62 events taking place all over Cambridge, from yoga classes to a topical panel discussion at the Union. Olivia is particularly excited about Bernadette Wegenstein, a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University who’ll be premiering her new film ‘The Good Breast’ on Saturday 4th, at 7:30pm – she describes it as ‘hugely important.’ The highpoint, though, is the Pink Week ball, held at a location so secret that we can’t yet divulge. Tickets are still on sale, though; there are ‘some amazing headliners confirmed’ including the Noisettes, so grab them while you can.

The money raised – which, if last year is anything to go by, will be very significant – goes to ‘a cross-section of care and research charities.’ In the latter category, for instance, is Breast Cancer Now, which Olivia describes as ‘leading the field in research’ on breast cancer. Another charity being helped is The Haven, which focusses more on caring for patients and which ‘provides holistic care during and after breast cancer treatment.’ It’s clear that the funds make a difference – people from Pink Week have visited Addenbrokes Hospital and been able to see the difference which the donations make.

The Pink Week team in action


But, Olivia stresses, raising awareness is equally important. ‘Young people just assume that they’re not going to get cancer. It’s true statistically that it’s less likely, but cancer is a random mutation; if we can get people to check themselves just once a week, we’ve done our job. Early detection saves lives.’ The role of Pink Week is two-fold; whilst the funds raised are important, educating students about early signs of cancer is something which is central to the campaign.

And for Olivia there’s a personal reason behind all of this. Four years ago, she was studying at Cardiff University when she found a lump in her collarbone, and started to get severe night sweats. Her GP dismissed her worries as ‘hypochondria’ – twice. Then, on a Friday night, she got a call telling her that she had a tumour in her chest, later diagnosed as lymphoma. Twelve cycles of chemotherapy followed, but it wasn’t enough; in April 2013 the tumour reappeared. So it was back to the hospital, this time for months of inpatient treatment in isolation; stronger chemotherapy, along with surgeries and stem cell therapy. Speaking about the latter, she notes that ‘a motion has been passed not to fund second stem cell transplants on the NHS…were my tumour to reignite again, I would not be entitled to treatment.’

Olivia Buckland, President of Pink Week 2017

While in recovery, she decided to apply to Cambridge, coming to interview two weeks after she went into remission. Now in her second year at Homerton, where she studies Education with English and Drama, she’s been working hard alongside the Pink Week committee to run the campaign since last June. They’ve already matched last year’s total, with £3,000 raised in the last few days alone through ball tickets. It’s a testament both to the hard work of the people behind Pink Week, and also to the hugely positive reaction of Cambridge to the campaign.

Though Clare College remains the spiritual home of Pink Week, there will be Pink Week formals at almost every college in Cambridge, not to mention a whole variety of other events. And it’s expanding to other universities, too; Bristol, Oxford, Durham and even UCLA in California. There’s a definite feeling that the tide might be turning in the fight against breast cancer; that’s why it’s more important than ever to keep pushing to build awareness and fund research.

So next week, let’s all turn Cambridge pink for a great cause.