Saffron Walden woman who sparked Boobiebellion speaks out

Boobie hats

Boobie hats - Credit: Archant

When breast cancer sufferer Sarah Poulter was branded a “sick freak” for wearing a knitted boobie hat in Saffron Walden Tesco in January, she could have never envisaged the national – and international – response that followed.

Sarah Poulter

Sarah Poulter - Credit: Archant

After Sarah wrote a letter directed at the person who confronted her in the supermarket, the community rallied and within hours a breast cancer awareness movement - Boobiebellion - was born.

Overwhelmed by the support and coverage, 44-year-old Sarah decided at the time to remain anonymous, but has since come forward to tell the story of the incident, and the uplifting events that sprung from it.

Speaking to the Reporter about that day in the Radwinter Road supermarket, Sarah said: “I can’t even remember anything about the lady. I just wanted to explain to her why I was wearing the hat, but she wouldn’t let me finish. By the time I had interpreted what she’d said, she was gone. I never got the opportunity to tell her my side of the story.

“I was quite down after it first happened, I had been feeling quite positive about my situation but it knocked me a bit. A day later, I thought to myself, this is not going to get me down and decided to write the letter.”

Sarah with daughter Jordan

Sarah with daughter Jordan - Credit: Archant

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But Sarah had no idea about the impact the letter would have on the community and beyond.

“I was absolutely amazed at how quickly it all took off. I completely underestimated the response, within hours of the letter being published and posted on Facebook, we had over 100 messages from people showing their support. At the time, it was all a bit too much for me, I couldn’t deal with it, so I asked my friend Sharon Morris to coordinate the campaign.

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“We had messages from as far away as Australia and America, it was like a whirlwind really, but I was really pleased that people around the world were talking about breast cancer. That’s what I wanted to do initially by wearing the hat, raise awareness. What I’ve never understood is why people keep so quiet about it.”

Sarah, who lives at Sweetmead in the town, attended the Boobiebellion flash mob event that took place on Valentines Day outside Tesco’s, and recalls the emotion when Saffron Walden jazz singer Joanna Eden performed Paul McCartney’s We All Stand Together.

The flash mob event at Saffron Walden Tesco

The flash mob event at Saffron Walden Tesco - Credit: Archant

“It was brilliant, when she started singing the song, I just burst into tears. I went to see the Tesco’s manager, Paul Westwood, and he was very kind, it wasn’t their fault that it happened there. The staff all got behind the day and some were wearing boobie hats in the store.”

Nearly £4,000 has been raised through various fundraising mediums since then in aid of a breast cancer scanner at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, and Sarah admits that, in an unexpected way, it proved that one wrong can make a right.

“It’s strange, but I suppose what she said has ended up bringing good to all kinds of people. The whole thing just became much bigger than we ever imagined it could, and as well as the fundraising, it got people talking about breast cancer. I still wonder what would have happened if she did let me explain.”

For long distance lorry driver Sarah, it has been an emotional journey, but the support of family, friends and work collegues has been invaluable.

“When I told the guys at work I had been diagnosed in October last year, I had grown men in tears over it, they were very upset. Telling the family was also very emotional of course. The day I told them, my son Martyn told me I was going to be a nana, so the tears flowed. But it really got me when my daughter Jordan, who had beautiful long hair, shaved hers off and said ‘We’ll grow our hair back together mum’.”

Sarah is now a doting nana to granddaughter Sapphire Rose, who was born in April, and she is back on the boobie trail again, trying to collect 250 of the hats for a fashion show that will take place next month in aid of the breast cancer unit at Addenbrooke’s.

Sarah will be one of 12 cancer survivors modelling in the show, which will take place at Chesterford Research Park on October 1.

“I’m really looking forward to it. We want to collect the hats for a big photo with everyone at the end of the show, and then they will be donated to male and female cancer sufferers. It’s the second one they’ve done but the first time that I have modelled. I will always keep the original boobie hat though, my great friend Angela Milton knitted it and it means a lot to me.”

Information: The fashion show, in association with John Lewis Cambridge stylists, will take place on Thursday, October 1 at Chesterford Research Park in aid of Addenbrooke’s breast cancer appeal. Tickets cost £10, must be purchased in advance and are available from Bee’s Fine Jewellery or by calling Amanda Tobin on 07766 651845. Boobie hats can be donated to the Reporter office at 54 High Street, Saffron Walden.

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