Twenty-one years after she first had breast cancer, both Amanda and her daughter Leanne were diagnosed with the disease. She talks about why she’s sharing her story and raising awareness through Leanne’s Black Women Rising project.
I was naïve about what was going on
The first time I was diagnosed in 1995 I knew nothing about breast cancer. I wasn’t aware of the disease and hadn’t known anyone else with it. I just knew I had a lump and went to my GP who referred me to a breast clinic for further tests.
It was a huge shock when I was told I had breast cancer, but maybe my naivety helped as I wasn’t really aware of what was going on. Everyone I told was shocked too. I was 35 at the time and had seven children, including Leanne. I had a mastectomy and chemotherapy but wasn’t very ill so my treatment didn’t impact much on my family, and the children took it in their stride, as children do.
I never expected it to come back
It was a huge relief once my treatment ended – I could get on with life again. Then, 21 years later, I went for a routine screening and they saw something in my other breast. I was almost more shocked at being diagnosed for a second time – I didn’t have a lump or any signs or symptoms of breast cancer. I never expected it to happen again.
By this point my children had grown up and my second diagnosis was more shocking to them than the first. It was different this time: they were scared, I think, and more aware of what was going on. I had a mastectomy but didn’t need chemotherapy.
That same year Leanne found a lump. I thought she was being paranoid because of my own diagnosis; I never thought she would actually have breast cancer. I couldn’t believe it when she was diagnosed as well. I tried to reassure her she’d be ok, but sometimes you just don’t want to hear that.
I'm no less of a woman because I don't have breasts
I didn’t mind showing my mastectomy scars and taking part in the photo shoot for Black Women Rising, because I have no hang ups about it. Breast cancer is something that’s happened to me and if it can help educate people that’s good – the more awareness the better.
You can move on after a shocking diagnosis. I don’t think everyone realises that. To me, I’m no less of a woman because I don't have breasts.
I had to stay strong. Whatever life throws at you, go with the flow. It’s frightening, but you can’t run from a diagnosis of breast cancer, you face it head on and do the best you can.
I’m so proud of Leanne
I’m so proud of Leanne for building this project. It’s allowed me to share my experiences with other people of colour. Some black people can ostracise others with illness. It’s good to talk about it and show that there’s a life after cancer so that people feel comfortable having a conversation about it.
Like most things, it’s about educating people. When you hear cancer you think death, but it's important to remember that you're still a human being and there's still life beyond a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Our information and support services are here for you after a breast cancer diagnosis