As a black African woman, the fear of death and stigma attached to a Cancer diagnosis makes life difficult while going through treatment. Stigma like being under a curse, witchcraft, or punishment for sins, amongst others is common. A friend of mine (of African descent) told me that I had Cancer because I didn’t pray enough. As a Christian, I know God’s love for me does not depend on how much I pray. After months of treatment, I eventually found the right support at Cork Cancer Care Centre, which makes it an incredible honour to be an Ambassador for this great charity.
In January 2022, I was referred by my GP to the breast clinic at Cork University Hospital, months after I found a lump in my breast. I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. My world came to a standstill. How on earth did I get Breast Cancer and more importantly how was I going to cope with the treatment? After a period of denial and fear, in March 2022, I started treatment and I’m glad I did.
Undergoing Chemotherapy was the most difficult time for me. For a very busy woman like me, it was hard depending on others for the things I would have called simple or easy. Apart from the effects on my body, my mind and confidence were also impacted. The medical team in the hospital as well as my family members and friends were amazing and supportive throughout but there were questions and fears I had that neither of them could either answer or ease.
I began to seek anyone who would share their experience with me, especially anyone from the Black or African ethnic community who had gone through a cancer journey. I found no one. The reality is that Cancer is rarely talked about in our community. It’s mostly mentioned when someone has died from it and the rate of death from Cancer amongst Black African women is still very high. Knowing someone has Cancer fills people with fear, so people are scared to openly talk about it because of the stigma attached to the diagnosis. I felt lost.
With the hope that I may meet someone who could relate to my experience, I went on Google to search for “In-person group meetings for cancer patients in Cork” and Cork Cancer Care Centre was the first one of the suggested support centres. I clicked on it and saved the details on my phone. I called the number and booked to join the Connect and Flourish group. I walked through the purple door up the stairs, one Tuesday morning. After a while of being there, I knew straight away that I had come to the right place. After a few weeks of attending the support group, with my new-found confidence from Cork Cancer Care Centre and my mindset changed, I finished my Thesis for my Masters Degree. Yes, I completed a Masters Degree in the midst of fighting Cancer.
At Cork Cancer Care Centre, I have received alternative therapies like reflexology, Acupuncture and massage which have helped a lot to alleviate some of the pains and side effects of the treatments. Sessions with the volunteers, Life Coach, Dietitian, and Makeup Artist, amongst others, the wonderful warriors and my supportive family members, my church and friends have helped to get me to where I am now. Linda, the team, and the volunteers still play a huge part in my recovery, they all do outstanding work. There’s never a dull moment. Most importantly, everyone in the group has gone through the cancer journey or has been affected by cancer; and they understand. No one looks at me differently, I belong; I feel safe and loved; and I have made new incredible friends.
For anyone who is going through a Cancer journey or who has recently received a diagnosis, my advice is don’t fight alone. Why fight Cancer alone in silence, when you can fight Cancer with other Warriors by your side and get support at the Cork Cancer Care Centre? Cork Cancer Care Centre is here for you.
For a charity that has donated over 32,,000 blankets free to Cancer patients across Ireland (Blankets of Hope) and more, I am delighted to be an Ambassador, I hope to raise awareness of the amazing support provided by Cork Cancer Care Centre for anyone affected by cancer, share my experience, and hopefully encourage more women including Black/African women to get support after a Cancer diagnosis and not hide away in shame or fear. Together we can stand up to Cancer and at Cork Cancer Care Centre, we are Cancer Warriors and we’re on Fire!