Meeting with Lili Sohn for Pink October
Continue to love your body, don't feel guilty, don't feel remorseful, dare to go after your dreams
Breast cancer is mostly talked about in October, because it is Pink October. Breast cancer is not so pink and it is not only breast cancer. To take the reflex to be screened, it is all year long and it can save lives. Pink October(renamed Pink Ribbon since 2021), is an annual breast cancer awareness campaign, which takes place every year from October 1st to October 31st. Each year, many women are affected by breast cancer. Although breast cancer most often develops around the age of 60, 10% of cases occur in women under the age of 35. According to cancerdusein.orgit is estimated that one in eight women is affected. Pink October exists so that screening becomes a reflex. It allows to identify various abnormalities at an early stage, to be able to act quickly and limit the appearance of symptoms. A breast cancer detected early can be cured in 90% of cases, so if it is not already the case, check, take this moment for you, to confirm that everything is fine. Frequent breast self-examination, regular check-ups with a doctor, with palpation possibly supplemented by an ultrasound or mammogram, can be easily done.
We met with Lili Sohnwho was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. We can tell you that Lili is a warrior. Breast cancer is a daily fight, it was hers. She tells us today her story, what she went through with a great dose of humor and self-deprecation, all those things that made her feel good when she needed them, the strength that the disease gave her to achieve her dreams, and the actions necessary to prevent this cancer.
How are you doing?
I'm doing great, thanks. The back-to-school whirlwind has passed and I have some great projects in the pipeline. At the moment, I'm doing a lot of travelling for the promotion of my comic book (PARTIR sur les chemins de Compostelle) and I'm meeting a lot of nice people. As I do every year, I've started working out again and for the moment, I'm sticking to it. I'm pretty proud of myself! And if not, I weighed myself (I don't know what got into me) and I clearly haven't lost my pregnancy pounds.
"So I work to fuck myself and love this body that made a human. It's not easy, it's a daily task."
Can you tell me a little more about yourself, about the cancer ordeal you went through?
My name is Lili, I am 38 years old and I live in Marseille with my spouse, my 2 children and my cat. I'm a comic book author and documentary filmmaker. Oh, and also, I had breast cancer... Han! Almost 10 years ago. I was living in Montreal and was 29 years old when I was diagnosed with cancer in my right breast. I had the tumor removed (+ a nipple) and had chemo. Then I found out that it was genetic (but yes, you know like Angelina Jolie) so I made the choice to remove both my breasts (and I was put prostheses instead). I summarize this in 2 sentences, but you can imagine that it was quite complicated.
How did you find out you had breast cancer?
I had a retracted nipple and since my mother always told me to be careful with my breasts, I went to see a doctor. The first time, the doctor didn't detect anything. The second time she didn't see anything either, but she sent me for an ultrasound out of conscience. It was when the person who was doing the examination said to me, "How long have you felt this lump?" That's when I realized there was a problem.
How is this cancer different from others?
Ha, good question! I haven't had any other cancers so I can't really compare. But maybe breast cancer affects a symbol of femininity. For me, it was the removal of those attributes, which triggered my feminist thoughts.
Am I still a woman if my breasts are removed?
Without suspense, I can tell you that I am still a woman. And even if other attributes were taken away from me, I would still be a woman, as long as I decide that I am. And it must be said that the patriarchy does not go away when you are a sick woman. The injunctions to beauty, the mental burden and the infantilisation (notably from the medical world) do not disappear and it is a bit like a double punishment.
How did you experience the disease?
I hadn't decided to be sick so I made a decision to try to live it joyfully. I tried to make it as painless as possible. So I dressed up, invited my friends to come with me to chemo and made a lot of jokes.
What did you do then to recharge your batteries when you felt the need?
To cope with this ordeal, I created a comic blog just a few days after my diagnosis. I shared with humor and transparency my state of mind according to the episodes of my disease: the announcement of my diagnosis, my treatments, my major surgery, my physical changes... It was a real therapy! And it was also a way to understand that I was not alone, since I received tons of messages from all over the world. Besides, this blog was so successful that I was published (La guerre des tétons, Michel Lafon).
Is there a before/after? If so, which one?
Yes, I understood that I was not immortal. And that changes a lot of things. It allowed me to start writing comics. But it also put a sword of Damocles over my head. I know that this disease could come back. And now I know how horrible it is.
Did the disease change your vision of femininity? Did your beauty/wellness routine change before/after?
At first, I learned to look at myself in the mirror, to watch the changes that were happening to me. First I stopped wearing makeup and got used to my face naturally, with all its flaws. And then I learned to draw my eyebrows because I really missed them and to give myself a good look because some days I was a little scared. I'm happy to be considered socially as a woman, to be able to use makeup (although gender boundaries tend to relax on that point). Makeup has really saved my spirits! Today, I hardly wear any makeup (except for a little red for special occasions) and I am very careful about what I put on my skin. What are the preventive actions? Getting to know your body and noting the slightest change, trusting yourself, putting your feelings and medical knowledge on the same level, feeling your breasts in the shower.
What advice would you give to people who are close to a cancer patient?
I think that simply telling people that you love them, with a little message or emoji. And that, without waiting or asking for a return. And above all, don't say "it's not serious, it will pass". "Today, it is well treated", "hair grows back" ...
If you had to say one word to the people who are currently experiencing the ordeal you went through and overcame, what would it be?
"One day at a time." That's what a nurse said to me when I was diagnosed. She followed me through the treatments and helped me a lot.
Your greatest pride?
To have become a comic book writer. Yes, because before I was a graphic designer. I dreamed of doing comics, but I never dared to show what I was doing. This cancer was my trigger. In a way, it uninhibited me. I showed my drawings without complex, anyway, I could die...
"Today, I try to feel less guilt, less remorse and more daring!"