In January 2019 we lost our long-time friend and campaigning comrade, Diana Ward.
Words cannot express our sense of loss at her not being there with and for us, as she has been for more than 25 years.
Di covered so much ground in her writing, activism, art and travels. In all ways, she was an ice-breaker and her analysis on the politics of breast cancer remains as incisive now as it was when she first started out on her journey to bring public awareness and political action to the issue.
It was an honour to work with her and have her as a dear and close friend. She leaves a powerful legacy of speaking truth to power. A legacy that will continue through our work.
We are remembering Di in a number of ways…
A ‘‘book of condolences‘ – a document with messages, memories and condolences from some of the very many friends and colleagues that came to know Di over her time here in the UK.
This was shared with Di’s family in Tasmania for her memorial.
Below – a very hard, sad thing to write – is our obituary.
Remembering Diana Ward
It is with such a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Diana Ward, our friend, colleague and co-conspirator. She was a founder member of the From Pink to Prevention Campaign, the No More Breast Cancer Campaign, The Free Radicals, the UK Working Group on the Primary Prevention of Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer UK and worked with the Women’s Environmental Network on their ‘Putting Breast Cancer on the Map’. She was a lifetime campaigner extraordinaire on the primary prevention of breast cancer and environmental justice.
Diana died peacefully at home in Tasmania on the 27th January 2019, surrounded with friends and family. It is so hard for us to imagine Di is finally gone. She survived so many cancers and so much ill- health, especially in the last few years of her life, that we began to think she might be immortal. Yet she lived through each onslaught, treating each as an adventure, a journey which opened her up to new experiences and interesting people to meet along the way.
Di Ward had many friends and colleagues in the UK and beyond, people whose lives she touched, through her work, her readiness to make friends, her inquisitiveness and her energy. She changed our lives for the better. During her time in the UK she lived in London and Bristol but travelled widely to Edinburgh, Brussels, Lincolnshire, and Paris,
Her writing and her art reached a wide audience through her various roles, activities and campaigning actions. And she was such a great networker! She talked to every person she met, educating everyone from shop-keepers to legislators, with a steely determination and sense of humour that they all warmed to. She was quietly persuasive in her solid determination to expose the injustices of the breast cancer establishment. This, combined with her energy, and her wisdom, made her a force to be reckoned with. Age was irrelevant to Di – we never knew how old she was, right up to a month before she died. She seemed ageless. We used to joke that campaigning was a job for life and Di was campaigning right up until the very end.
Putting Breast Cancer on the Map
Helen recalls: Di entered my life at the start of the Putting Breast Cancer on the Map project. In 1997 I received National Lottery funding at the Women’s Environmental Network to run a project looking at encouraging women and their communities to map their local environments for links between sources of pollution and breast cancer incidence. Di arrived like a gift just at the right time. The mapping project oddly seem to draw the right people and things to use when we needed them.
When Di wasn’t on the phone persuading a caller to ‘get mapping’, recording their details on our newly acquired Rolodex, she contributed to the drafting of what became the project information booklet and the final report. When things went wrong, which they so often did, or we found ourselves in the office late at night, Di would say ‘dinna fash’ and we’d celebrate or comfort ourselves with chips and prosecco. The act of mapping became cathartic and the project developed and grew into working with communities to take toxic tours of their localities, workplaces and home environments.
An enabler and supporter of women
Di was a feminist, a believer that the status quo was not set in stone and that you could and should challenge and question the presiding authorities and belief systems, especially when it came to cancer. It was so good to find someone else who wasn’t afraid to ask the hard questions, it made it so much easier to ask them together. Helen remembers: ‘I never talked with anyone as much as I talked with Di, it was so refreshing to find someone else who wanted to talk strategy and was as passionate about the issues as I was. But she was oh, so very much wiser.’
She got involved with the Older Women’s Network when she came to London first and lived by house-sitting in North London and Bristol. When she returned the second time from Tasmania, she joined the Older Women’s Co-Housing Network. She went against so many of society’s beliefs about women, especially older woman. She loved bright colours and clothing and decorated her London flat with purple chairs and rugs mostly from John Lewis, a department store which she wished she could have brought back to Tasmania.
The Free Radicals
The free radicals came into being after Helen and Di attended the World Conference on Breast Cancer Advocacy held Brussels in 1997, where (yet again) they found themselves going against the grain and were prevented from holding a meeting on primary prevention. The Free Radicals wanted to do more direct action and one of our first actions was to make a point about society being more interested in breasts than breast cancer.
Helen remembers: ‘Along with Audrey Scott (RIP), Clare Dimmer (RIP), Laura Potts, Di and I bared our ‘breasts’ outside the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in York, or as we called it the Ministry Against Female Futures – for licencing chemicals and pesticides linked to breast cancer.
We had much fun doing the stunt and got such a great reaction from the many photographers turned up to take pictures of our bared breasts, we did it again in Westminster and visited the PM who declined to come to the door.’
But that was what campaigning was like with Di- fun and an adventure, but always with a focus on challenging the establishment about toxic chemicals linked to breast cancer.
Breast Cancer: An Environmental Disease
The ‘Orange Document’ – Breast Cancer an Environmental Disease – came about after we met with Joan Ruddock in 2002. We wanted the UK Government to organise a task force to look at the links between breast cancer and toxic chemicals, to stop breast cancer before its starts.
Joan told us we were the Task Force but we must product ‘the evidence’ in order for the government to take action. And so, the UK Working Group on the Primary Prevention of Breast Cancer was formed, which later instigated the No More Breast Cancer Campaign.
The process of writing the orange document was very democratic, and a massive labour of love. It was a ground-breaking document and like all Di’s work she collected a group of people around her- Deborah Burton, Jill Day, Clare Dimmer, Morag Parnell, Gwynne Wallis, Dianne Dowling, Helen Lynn and Alison Craig, and we worked collectively, but of course Di was the driving force, the main author.
Deb recalls the process of writing the landmark ‘Orange Document’- Breast Cancer: An Environmental Disease. ‘Di’s attention to detail was AMAZING. This 2005 report was a massive labour of love, collating all the science as it did from the 1940s to the present. It was a ground-breaking document and Di led the editorial team without ever wanting acknowledgement of that very truth – that she was leading. But she was and she led with grace, immense knowledge, and vision. She used one of her favourite quotes, from Robert Kennedy, which spoke to her own ‘credo’ : ‘Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.’
Di was an accomplished writer and she taught us how to write, honing words and sentences until they were as good as they could be. And true to form we paved our own path and didn’t produce a traditional report on the evidence, knowing that there were many barriers to prevention but the lack of evidence was not one of them. Instead we used the words of the many scientists, activists, campaigners, regulators and people we admired, to support the call for recognition of breast cancer as an environmental disease and exposing that the government and the cancer establishment are complicit in soaring rates of breast cancer.
The orange document was presented to the Scottish Parliament in 2007 by Dr. Morag Parnell, Moira Adams and WEN Scotland, along with a petition urging the Scottish Government to investigate any links between exposure to hazardous toxins in the environment and in the workplace and the rising incidence of cancers and other chronic illnesses. And Di spoke at the International conference organised by ARTAC (Association for Research and Treatment Against Cancer) on ‘Environment and Sustainable Health: An International Assessment’ as one of her last events as the first chair of the newly reformed Breast Cancer UK. She left the UK to return to Tasmania that same year.
From Pink to Prevention This campaign was all about a focus on vested interests standing in the way of primary prevention. Di would always come back to the ‘vested interests’ angle, sitting at the heart of the issue. Included in this was the role played by the big breast cancer research charities whose task seemed to include the closing down of any evidence that wasn’t linked to the mantra ‘lifestyle’.
And moreover, this too was also linked the ‘pinkwashing’ of breast cancer. Di always hated the global festival of pink that each October brought – she wanted to move from pink to orange, from pink to prevention. She led on FPTP’s detailed and challenging correspondence with Breakthrough Breast Cancer UK (now called Breast Cancer Now) as we tackled them on their public communications and ‘selective’ research selection; she also began to create what was to become an extensive body of artwork, for use by the campaign. This culminated in her wonderful Make the Connection exhibition at Unison’s HQ in Central London, last October, of which we were so proud.
Artist and Cartoonist
Di was always a painter. She loved colour and latterly, she translated this love of colour into her political art work – we now have a legacy of the many brilliant cartoons she created for ‘From Pink to Prevention’. Her last effort was in the summer of 2018 as she delivered one after another simply wonderful pieces for her collection Make the Connection – 25 cartoons spanning a whole range of aspects. Even in this – the most personal of creative process, art-work – Di was the easiest, most generous and collaborative of people to work with. And all of it done with the energy, enthusiasm and creativity of a 30 year old. Make the Connection has the style, colour and directness of someone truly young in heart and mind. And since Di was 12 hours ahead and we would need regular working skype calls, Deb remembers that Di had a beautiful tone to her voice which invariably had a smile coming through it:)
Di fought for women, she painted women, she was the most supportive friend to women. There has been no better role model to have had in life our lives than Diana Ward. We will all miss her beyond words and we won’t ever again be able to smell lavender now without thinking of her. She enriched our lives and our world – a world that will now be a much sadder and quieter place without Di Ward. And we send our deepest condolences and love to Di’s daughters, friends and wider family in Tasmania.
We loved you Di and we will always love you with all our hearts.
Rest in peace our beloved, intrepid Diana.
Helen Lynn and Deborah Burton
Helen Lynn has made a lovely short video encapsulating Di’s many achievements and campaign actions here in the UK. They included this action outside No 10 – in the days when you could!
Lastly, here is a short video about our last big project with Di – the Make The Connection exhibition launch of her cartoon collection last October, hosted in London by Unison. You can see the exhibition here.