Kate’s Cancer Diagnosis: Why Women are Pressured to Show Up?

It was the news none of us expected, but now it all makes sense. Princess Catherine, or as we all still fondly refer to her, Kate, has been diagnosed with cancer. As she bravely announced her diagnosis and continued chemotherapy she thanked everyone for their concern and then politely asked to be left to deal with what must be a terribly frightening time privately with her three young children. I couldn’t help shed a tear at the video which clearly showed not just a Princess, but a mum, explaining the worst news you can imagine.

I have two young children and one of my biggest fears is that I could be taken away from them. It is a dark thought that creeps in every so often, or appears as a niggling voice at the back of my mind every time we talk about their futures or getting older. This year my partner lost a very close friend very suddenly and every time we think about his three children we both can feel our throats tighten. I cannot imagine having to deal with all of those emotions alongside the completely unproven (and ever more ridiculous) social media conspiracies which included divorce, rehab, and even BBL surgery, with gradually more and more people jumping on the “Where’s Kate” bandwagon.

When I saw that Mother’s Day picture, it made me think about how women are always expected to be seen no matter the circumstance. My mind turned to times I’d been told “You look so well” when I was going through personal hell. The image posted on Mother’s Day by Kensington Palace, which was widely criticised for photo editing, now feels even more poignant showing Princess Catherine surrounded by her three animated children to mark the occasion. In essence it wasn’t unusual, and after a quick scour of the joint Princeandprincessofwales official account, with its 15.2million followers, it was a very similar image to the one put out last year to commemorate the day. However, now it has a completely different meaning. I hang my head in collective shame that we couldn’t just respect her wishes to remain out of the public eye. We had been told that due to health reasons Kate would be taking a break from all public service and appearances until Easter. We are still not at Easter, yet here we are. A woman forced to speak her truth because TikTok and other social media sites would not just let it be.

I understand people were concerned, but in hindsight couldn’t we just accept there was something wrong? Did it really matter what was wrong with her? She had told her ‘work’ (yes her role in the royal family is a job) that she won’t be there until the end of March, which we now know had been signed off by a medical team, so why was it anyone’s business? And more importantly why have the palace risen to social media conspiracy theories? I can’t help but think the Queen, who famously would say, “Never complain, never explain”, would not be amused that when her Grandson and his family were going through unimaginable torment and anxiety they have been forced to speak before they were ready to do so.

When I look at that video I not only see a dignified Princess, I see a mum, who has a deep need to prove that she’s still being a ‘good mum’ even though she is suffering. I see a woman trying to prove to the world that she’s present, she hasn’t abandoned her family or her duties, even in hard times. When you become a mum, there is this overwhelming feeling that you need to prove how well you’re doing. I remember getting up and dressed three days after my first emergency c-section to go to my local Starbucks, just to prove I was taking it all in my stride. I attended my auntie’s 50th a week after my second child to coos and admiration that I wasn’t in bed, people even commenting that their ‘insert female relative’ struggled to even get out of bed for two weeks after they gave birth. Like I had won some sort of competition. “There is so much pressure on mums to look good regardless of the challenges they’re facing,” says Suzy Reading, Chartered Psychologist and Author of Rest to Reset. “We’ve grown up with the ‘circle of shame’ as women and this permeates motherhood with the ‘bounce back/snap back’ messaging. It’s the last thing we need in the midst of adversity, being expected to mask it with a smile and a put-together outfit. Permission to be human!” she tells POPSUGAR UK.

We hope this ends the social media furore and we let Kate get back to what she should be doing focusing on her health and her family.

Lauren Ezekiel is an associate editor at POPSUGAR UK, where she writes about all things beauty and wellness. With a degree in journalism and 12 years’ experience as a beauty editor at a leading Sunday supplement, she is obsessed with skincare, hair and makeup, and is often found offering advice to innocent bystanders. Her work has been published in Grazia, OK, Health and Beauty, The Sun, ASDA, Dare and Metro.

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