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When Moke was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, she was committed to keeping her positive attitude – even when she faced complications in treatment.
I found a lump in my breast while moisturising my body after a shower in September 2018, but did not report it to my GP until after a month (which I know was naughty – I should have gone sooner). The mammogram picked up a second lump I hadn’t been able to feel, as it was very close to my chest wall.
After some more tests, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes.
From the day I was diagnosed, I’ve had a very positive attitude, and I’ve been told that probably has helped with my recovery. No matter what the challenge was – and there were a few! - I was always able to find a positive side to it.
I think the best example of this was when I started chemotherapy in February 2019. After the first dose, I developed neutropenic sepsis and had to be hospitalised for a week. I had to be in my own separate room because I was at high risk of infection from other people.
Rather than being miserable, though, I was my usual happy self. Some of the nurses would actually stop by my room just to ‘rejuvenate and recharge’ because they appreciated my positive energy so much.
Even when I was first told I had cancer, I wasn’t negative about it. I had my cousin and my son with me, and my cousin was the one to cry – not me! I told her to stop; being miserable wasn’t going to make the cancer go away, so there was no point in it.
Instead, I decided that I was going to make the best use of a bad situation. I did a lot of research and equipped myself with a lot of knowledge regarding my specific diagnosis so that I could understand the medical team and all their terminologies.
This helped me get involved with my treatment plan as I understood the medical jargon, and I even suggested certain treatments when others failed.
People would ask me how I was managing to stay positive, but I think I’ve always been this way. Even as a kid, I was always vibrant, always cheeky. I just believe that every negative has a positive side to it, and I focus on that.
My oncologist told me that, once I’d been declared No Evidence of Disease, I should put my strength to good use and become an ambassador for others. I also benefitted from programmes organised by various organisations like Breast Cancer Now and Macmillan, and that gave me a passion to give back – especially to some of the harder-to-reach communities.
It might seem that it’s only been in recent times that Black people have been suffering from breast cancer, but really it’s just that they were keeping it quiet and nobody knew. I think a lot of Black people and other cultures can be quite secretive about their health – but not me. I wanted the world to know.
I’m very open about my experience, I’ve spoken to all of my friends about it. I show them pictures of myself when I had no hair, how I looked at different stages of my treatment. In fact, I’ve even shown some people my mastectomy scar!
By opening up and telling my story, I know it encourages other people to share their experiences too. That can be hard to do for some people, especially when you have some beliefs that still blame cancer on karma or something like that.
I know that everybody deals with cancer differently, and not everyone is going to have this attitude. Sometimes you need to cry, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The important thing is to get all those feelings out, and then try to focus on the positives after.
Before cancer my motto was, ‘Life is for Living. Now, it’s changed to, ‘Life is for Living, No Limits.’
And I say this as someone who hasn’t got the most hunky-dory life. I’ve got lymphoedema as a result of needing my lymph nodes removed, so that’s something I deal with daily.
I also know that the cancer could come back, and I could die. But you know what? If that’s my fate, I’m still determined to die with a smile on my face.
However, I am going to be around for a very long time.
I’ve got a lot of friends who have told me that I’ve motivated and encouraged them to get through some tough times, and it makes me feel good to know that I’m helping people in a way. Hopefully, by sharing my story here, I’ll be able to help someone else.
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.
Sharing breast cancer experiences is important for raising awareness - but it's not easy for people who have been historically missed out of these conversations. That's why we've created the Ethnic Communities Hub: a place for people to find and share information that specifically caters to their needs.