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Backlash over Facebook breast cancer selfies which 'over-simplify what women go through'

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Melanie Kennedy

Melanie Kennedy

Belfast playwright Leesa Harker

Belfast playwright Leesa Harker

Melanie Kennedy

Northern Ireland women have hit out at a Facebook trend meant to raise cancer awareness.

Belfast Playwright Leesa Harker and Co Down campaigner Melanie Kennedy said that the "challenge accepted" campaign was insulting and silly.

The trend encourages Facebook users to post black and white selfies with the words "challenge accepted" below and to tag friends to do the same.

Similar crazes including no make-up selfies and the ice bucket challenge were a huge hit with famous people and the public, and because they were linked to charities they helped raise cash.

The latest trend, however, is linked to no particular group.

Leesa (38), who had has battled breast cancer, said that she found some of these posts offensive because they over-simplify what women go through.

She was just as frustrated when the no-make-up selfie trend took off and she decided to instead post an image telling women how to check themselves for breast cancer. It was shared almost 80,000 times.

"This is just a trend, but people who have cancer hate this time of year when these things go around," Leesa said. "These things are so stupid and how anyone can say this is for breast cancer awareness is ridiculous.

"I find it really offensive because they're kind of making it fun and I just think they don't have a clue. Breast cancer is not pink or fluffy and sometimes it's not a bit like a hen party atmosphere. It's not like that at all.

"I was friends with four other women who were diagnosed alongside me and who had surgery and chemotherapy at the same time as me, and three of them have died.

"This really, really annoys me, because those three women really wanted to live and maybe if they had seen proper breast cancer awareness (campaigns), they would still be here."

Bangor woman Melanie (39) has been fighting the disease for four years and has been leading a campaign to get better access to cancer drugs here.

When she was tagged in a "challenge accepted" post, she instead chose to post pictures of some of her friends who have died from cancer.

"These posts aren't backed by any charity", she said. "I think they are duping kind-hearted people into thinking they are raising awareness of something when in fact they're not.

"People take part thinking that they are doing something helpful, but for me it was challenge not accepted.

"The reality of cancer is that it's not a game. I have been trying to raise awareness of cancer treatments in Northern Ireland as I think we're a bit behind and I would like to see people combining something fun with an important message."

Belfast Telegraph