Once upon a time
I started dabbling in cosplay about 10 years ago and started cosplaying regularly in 2013. I fell in love with the creativity, the escapism and the friends I made.
The years I started cosplaying were very difficult times for me emotionally. I had lost my dad to prostate cancer, having already lost my mum to breast cancer (I know, there’s now nothing standing between me and becoming batman), and did not handle the loss of that familial support network well, so I threw myself into cosplay and made myself a new family from the friends I made.
In 2015 I actually moved to Reading with two friends I met at comic con. We were all wearing latex cosplays at Cardiff Comic Con and naturally hit it off, and when they suggested we move together, as none of us were happy where we were at the time, I jumped at the chance.
My health started to suffer later that year. I lost weight, I looked tired and felt exhausted. I put it down to the fact I’d had a couple of high stress years and was overworking.
July of that year I was a cosplay guest at London Film and Comic Con. I was incredibly excited about this as I had worked so hard on cosplaying the last couple of years and it felt like validation. It was incredibly hot so I wore my latex Kitana cosplay on the Sunday.
It was whilst I was shining my latex at the con that I found The Lump. It was small, hard and sat just under my right breast directly over a rib. Under normal circumstances it would have been almost impossible to find, even medical professionals struggled to find it until I directed them to it. The way the latex lifted the skin in that area and made bumps more obvious is the only reason I found it.
When I got home I booked a doctor’s appointment. There wasn’t one free for a couple of weeks but I wasn’t that worried to be honest. I had had lumps before that always turned out to be nothing and I was only 32, I just assumed that was too young to get breast cancer.
Before my appointment happened I found a lump in my right armpit. That’s when the fear hit me. My housemate Frankie took me straight to the walk in centre and stayed with me the whole time. Two weeks later I had my scan and they booked me in to discuss my results.
The following week I walked into a room to be met by two nurses and a surgeon. He told me I had breast cancer and that it had spread to my lymph nodes under my arm. It was like time stopped and the world fell away from under my feet. The breast care nurse assigned to me sat me down after the appointment to go through practical things and offer support. I told her I felt like I had been given a death sentence. She told me that my life was no longer my own. That I needed to hand it over to them now and they will give it back to me once they have done everything they can to fix me.
Everything happened so quickly after that. I really can’t praise the NHS and the Royal Berkshire Hospital for the efficiency and the immense support they gave me. First was a raft of scans and blood tests to see how far the cancer had spread and then the terrifying first meeting with my oncologist.
My cancer was limited to the lymph nodes in my right armpit, which was good news under the circumstances. It was also an oestrogen feeder and susceptible to Herceptin. Also good news, we’d found it’s krytonite.
It was however grade 3, the most aggressive kind, and stage 3. In order to kill any cancer cells that may have set off on a little adventure around my body, he advised I start chemotherapy as soon as possible.
I got my picc line fitted (a tube for delivering chemotherapy that goes in your arm straight to your heart) and started chemotherapy within a fortnight. I fitted in three burlesque performances in this time because focusing on costuming and still being Mojo Jones really helped me.
I was going to keep my cancer journey as private as possible, but after my first chemotherapy treatment left me without an immune system and therefore an infection that almost killed me, I decided to shave my hair off, film it and go public. It suddenly became incredibly important to me to get everyone to check themselves for lumps and changes, regardless of their age. I wanted to leave some sort of legacy, just in case this was a battle beyond medical science.
I also donned a cosplay to appear in a video filmed by Anna S Cosplay. It was Zatanna and getting to put on makeup, a wig and be a superhero again for a day made me feel like myself again. It made me feel strong. For a little while I wasn’t just a patient.
The rest of cancer treatment was traumatic to say the least. After my 4th time spending a week in hospital post chemotherapy my oncologist patted me comfortingly on the foot(I was still in hospital) and said ‘If I’m completely honest I’ve not had someone have such a difficult time going through treatment before. You’ve given me quite a lot of work’ and then reassured me that he had a plan C (we’d tried plan B) and not to panic.
Scans showed that the 4 rounds of chemo I managed to endure had shrunk my tumour to the point it was invisible. They operated on my breast the weekend before Christmas 2015 and in January confirmed that no cancer cells were present in the lymph nodes they removed and that only pre-cancerous cells were found in the breast tissue. This meant I could keep my breast and start radiotherapy as soon as I was healed enough.
To me this meant I could start cosplaying again! A chance to get a little bit of my life back.
Being a Superhero
Whilst I was going through treatment a friend had sent me the issue of The Mighty Thor where we discover that Jane Foster, who is going through breast cancer treatment, is Thor. I started reading all of that run from the beginning. Cancer treatment is such a lonely, isolating experience regardless of your support network that having a comic to read with a hero I could empathise with so completely was deeply profound. Cosplaying Thor then became a mission of mine, something to work towards whilst I was going through treatment. It gave me drive and purpose, made me get up and achieve things on days I felt like staying in bed and crying.
The first time I got to wear that cosplay was an emotional moment and it will always be the cosplay I’m most proud of.
I’m currently in remission. I get scans and see my oncologist yearly to decide whether he’s happy to release me back into the wild for another year. I have an implant done monthly and take medicine daily that reduces my oestrogen levels so the cancer has nothing to feed off. I will be on these for a further 8 years and they come with a fine selection of side effects that make daily life often a bit of a struggle, but as they keep me alive I try not to complain! Ok, sometimes I complain a lot but I’m British, I love complaining.
I should have caught my cancer earlier. I had lost my mum to breast cancer, I was high risk, and yet I just assumed I was too young to worry about it. It’s now my mission to get everyone checking themselves regularly, regardless of age, and taking lumps and changes seriously. Early detection saves lives.
So for October I’m embarking on Mojo’s Pinktober Challenge to raise awareness amongst the cosplay community and beyond, and to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and The Royal Berkshire Hospital.
I have put together and will be shooting 31 different pink looks to be shared every day of October. Everything from pinup, latex cosplay, normal cosplay and utter nonsense.
I will also be wearing pink 24/7 in my day to day life.
If I hadn’t have been wearing that Kitana cosplay that day I may not have found that lump in time. That cosplay probably saved my life, so now I want to use cosplay to help save others.
You can donate and follow Pinktober here
You can also donate via my Patreon, if you want to see behind the scenes nonsense etc
Thank you for reading my story. Now go touch yourself and think of me.