Chrissy Amphlett and her band Divinyls were hugely popular in the early 1990s in Australia. A year ago, the singer died from breast cancer and now her dying wish is being fulfilled as her hit song is now the new breast cancer anthem for Australia. Their hit song I Touch Myself was a No. 1 hit in the land down under and even hit the Billboard Top 100 in America in 1991. Now it will be re-purposed to save the lives of women who could be affected by breast cancer.
The courageous star was battling multiple sclerosis when she began to not feel right. After a self-examination of her breasts and a biopsy, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. A mammogram and an ultrasound did not detect the cancer, but a physical examination did. Perhaps because of this experience, the singer was passionate about her song, which has long been considered to be about female masturbation, become a new kind of anthem, this time a life-saving one.
The Cancer Council of New South Wales (NSW) has launched a program in her honor based around Amphlett’s story and song, complete with a website, itouchmyself.org, which will be launched on Wednesday in Australia. The song, a largely acappella, paired-down version of the rock hit, features 10 Aussie singers in black and white, singing the song topless. They are featured only from the shoulders up, making the video safe for work, but the end shows survivor Sali Stevanja, co-founder of Stylerunner, from the front, featuring her scars from breast cancer. While the video should be viewed with caution in public areas, it is a powerful, beautiful tribute to breast cancer survivors and to Chrissy Amphlett.
In keeping Amphlett’s dying wish, the Cancer Council NSW is trying to get women all over Australia and anywhere else in the world to take an active part in their own health. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australian women with about 13,000 diagnosed each year. A simple self-examination can aid in early detection. Amphlett knew that something was not right and she made such an examination herself. While it did not save her life, it has been shown to improve the chances for the many women who regularly perform such examinations and often catch the early signs of the disease.
Because of this, Chrissy Amphlett’s I Touch Myself is the perfect hit song to be a new breast cancer anthem. In this context, the song is an encouragement to engage in self-care out of love. The first line of the song is “I love myself,” and that is perhaps what Chrissy Amphlett wanted women to do more than anything. Now the message is different and less sexually charged, but it is no less powerful. Perhaps the lyric with the most impact now is “think I would die if you were to ignore me.” One in nine women in Australia will be diagnosed with breast cancer by age 85 and there will be many who do not survive the experience. Self-examination such as that supported by the new rendition of the song and by Amphlett’s memory can save lives in Australia and elsewhere.
In the United States, the American Cancer Society estimates that over 39,000 women died from breast cancer in 2013. Hundreds of thousands more will be affected by the disease. All in all, there are millions of women all over the world who will be affected by breast cancer. They and their families will be faced with a situation that no one wants to be in. Breast cancer fighters and survivors are considered nearly universally to be some of the bravest people in the world. Chrissy Amphlett may have had a hit song in the 1990s about sex, but now it will be the new breast cancer anthem for Australia as a tribute to her and to all the brave breast cancer warriors down under and elsewhere in the world.
Opinion By Lydia Webb