Breast cancer has been in Bami’s life ever since her mother was diagnosed. She uses her experience to make others aware of symptoms.

Bami, a Black woman with braided hair and bright coral-coloured eyeshadow, smiles while wearing a white top

I was vigilant because of my family history

Breast cancer has been a part of my life for more than 30 years now. My mum and my sister both had it, and they sadly both died at the age of 46.  

Due to the family history, I was advised by my GP to undergo risk-reducing mastectomy. Neither myself nor my late sister have the BRCA gene alteration which made our situation different to most people.  

In spite of undergoing the mastectomy, I still developed breast cancer which was discovered after the surgery.  

I was too young to have had a routine mammogram, but I knew the importance of checking myself and the signs and symptoms because of what my family had already been through. 

I initially came to know Breast Cancer Now prior to my diagnosis at a breast reconstruction awareness event. I met some members of the Cardiff team, and a lovely lady named Tracey encouraged me to become a volunteer - so I did! 

There is still a lot of stigma around breast cancer 

I now give public health talks to organisations, which means I go and share my story and let people know what to look out for in their own bodies. 

A lot of people do not understand the importance of checking themselves. Amongst men or younger women or people from ethnic minorities, it's just not spoken about. A lot of the time, only older women are represented in breast cancer media, and so other groups do not know they are at risk. 

There is stigma, too, because we are talking about breasts. In some communities, you don’t speak about those things. You don’t speak about cancer. But not talking about it doesn’t stop people from getting it. The only way we can help with the prognosis is by making them aware of what to look for and when to go to the doctor. 

So many people have missed mammograms or doctors' appointments because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are going to be dealing with the repercussions of this for three or four years at least, so it is really important that people be aware of their bodies and what to check for. 

I love educating and engaging with people 

I am a very positive person; I like to see the silver lining in everything and that is what I have tried to do with the pandemic. 

This last year has made it very difficult to speak to people, especially as not everyone is familiar with the technology we’re using and you can sometimes run into problems. Plus, it’s not the same when people are just looking at a screen. I like being there in person and seeing everyone’s faces. When I give talks face to face, and I have the Breast Cancer Now colours behind me, people are very engaged. 

But I have used this as a challenge to make things fun, and I still like to get people involved! 

I always say that people can check themselves in the shower, maybe while they’re singing Brown Skin Girl, or something else to remind them that they should love their bodies. Because that’s what you are doing when you check yourself – you are taking care of yourself and loving the parts of your body that we might not want to talk about. 

Breast cancer doesn’t just affect the patient 

Doing these talks online means that I can talk to people without needing to travel, which is a plus. When we can go back into the world, though, I want to be out there meeting people. I want to have those colours behind me again. 

I know that even if I can just help one person, encourage just one person to get a symptom checked before it is too late, it is worth me doing these talks. Because breast cancer doesn’t just affect the individual, it affects their whole family. I know this from personal experience.  

This is so, so important to me, and I am grateful to Breast Cancer Now for letting me share that. 

The personal stories and experiences that you share with us can help us raise awareness of breast cancer, our life-saving research and the issues affecting patients. In some cases, we can use them in media activity, on digital and social media channels, in campaigning or fundraising materials and in internal communications to our staff.

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