Rachel, our senior clinical nurse specialist, chats to Leanne Pero, founder of Black Women Rising, about the magazine she hopes will help BAME women diagnosed with cancer.
I know that you have shared this many times before, but can you tell us about your own breast cancer diagnosis?
I was diagnosed in 2016 at the age of 30 just before my 31st birthday, and six months after my mum had been diagnosed for a second time. I had eight rounds of chemotherapy, trastuzumab (Herceptin) and a double mastectomy with breast reconstruction.
In June 2017 I was given the ‘all clear’.
What led you to start Black Women Rising and what impact has it had?
I set up the Black Women Rising cancer support project in 2017 after struggling with the aftermath of my own breast cancer experience at such a young age.
In my quest to find the right services to support me, I soon realised that the NHS lacked cancer support packages for BAME cancer patients. Cancer stories from the BAME community showed that we were being excluded from the UK’s mainstream media outlets and from annual cancer campaigns by brands and charities.
This has further fuelled the false narrative amongst the BAME community that cancer is not a ‘black disease’.
There are so many unhelpful myths and taboos surrounding cancer within the BAME community which have stopped people speaking out about their experiences. This has led to a lack of awareness and education around cancer, its signs and symptoms and ultimately to the devastating outcomes of late-stage diagnoses and higher mortality rates.
To raise awareness, I decided to create my own platform to showcase the stories I was hearing and provide vital support for black cancer patients and survivors as they undergo dauting treatments and struggle when treatment ends.
I am really proud that in its small lifetime, the Black Women Rising project has created the UK’s first all-black cancer portrait exhibition that has toured London’s Southbank, The Oxo Tower and is due to exhibit at the Tate Gallery in 2021.
The mission at Black Women Rising is to educate, inspire and bring opportunities for women from the BAME community, to connect with one another and share their stories, without fear or shame. At the heart of this is the monthly peer-to-peer support groups and a popular weekly podcast which tells stories of our inspirational women.
What inspired you to create a magazine for Black Women Rising?
I came across the Future Dreams magazine and loved its format, but I knew that what we needed for our community was a magazine dedicated to BAME women. Supported by Future Dreams and the amazing women involved in Black Women Rising, we have been able to produce our own version.
This magazine serves our community and is an opportunity to empower women of colour as they navigate their cancer journey. Whether it be information about hair loss, coping with chemotherapy or understanding different types of cancer, it is all in there.
It has also been an amazing way to reach healthcare professionals and family members so that they can understand some of what its like being diagnosed with cancer.
What are your plans for the future of Black Women Rising?
Another magazine would be amazing. It is a lot of hard work, but the response has been incredible.
I feel in a privileged position in that I can open up conversations with people and organisations, and I can see change happening. Being able to increase the amount of support services that we offer in 2021 would be incredible, it’s so needed and this has been backed up by our recent survey of 100 women, 74% of those who use a softie, prosthetic breast or nipple were not offered one to match their skin tone. There is so much more to do but we are on our way.
You can order a copy of the magazine on the Black Women Rising website.
Have you got question or concerns about breast cancer? Our breast care nurses are at the end of a telephone line. Call our Helpline free on 0808 800 6000.