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Why being a Voice is important to Fola

We asked Fola about her diagnosis, why she became a Breast Cancer Voice, and her favourite moment from our Voices network to date. Our network is a community of people affected by breast cancer, who use their lived experiences to impact breast cancer work and research. Every month, we send our Voices opportunities to get stuck into projects.

What’s your connection to breast cancer, Fola?

Since having a benign lump removed at 17, I’ve made sure to check my breasts every month. Almost 20 years later, in 2017, I started to feel something was off – there was a dull pain in my right breast that wouldn’t go away. 

I saw the doctor, but they didn’t take my concerns seriously. When I woke up with a dark brown stain from my nipple, 2 months later, my doctor finally referred me for a mammogram with a breast consultant They diagnosed it as an infection, sending me home with a breast pain booklet. 

After I kept asking for further tests, I got the news I had stage 2 breast cancer. I needed rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, a year of trastuzumab (Herceptin) and a mastectomy to my right breast. More recently, I needed a breast reconstruction known as a DIEP flap. 

How has your diagnosis affected you?

Being a single mother of 2 young children, accepting this diagnosis and going through treatment has been challenging. I had a strong support network , but after 6 months of treatment, I started feeling overwhelmed. I didn’t have a clear schedule of next steps, and it filled me with anxiety.  

I was recommended courses that could help, like Breast Cancer Now’s Moving Forward Course, helping you adjust to life after breast cancer. It was a great course. But I wanted something that would address my unique circumstances, as a woman from a minority group. 

This made me passionate about increasing the representation of minority women with breast cancer. And the Voices network seemed like the perfect opportunity. 

Can you tell us more about your decision to join Breast Cancer Voices?

I’m keen to build confidence in young women – many of them, like me, face unique challenges in their communities and often struggle to have a voice. I really want to see everyone's needs known and met in breast cancer treatment and support. And I want to be part of a movement encouraging everyone, regardless of their background, to come forward and contribute to positive change around breast cancer. 

So, the Voices network was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to join. It’s a vibrant community giving people with diverse backgrounds a platform to have their voices heard, and to influence as a group. It helps me use my personal experiences and skills to make a lasting impact and build others’ confidence to do the same. 

Breast Cancer Voices illustration

What do you get involved in, as a Breast Cancer Voice?

One of my roles is a louder Voice welcome volunteer – I call people who signed up to join the network and asked for a welcome call. I ask about their passions and skills, then explain the type of projects they could get involved in. Projects may be anything from research studies, to changing policy and improving Breast Cancer Now services and campaigns.  

I love my role because I can help bring diverse people on board and encourage them to use their voice to create change. I can inspire them and help them build confidence to share their experiences. 

In meetings with the welcome team, I use my background in community engagement to suggest ways to make the calls, and Voices opportunities more inclusive. 

What’s your favourite Voice moment so far?

One of my highlights so far was being on the interview panel for hiring a new Breast Cancer Now involvement officer. I got to see people’s eagerness to join the staff team and be part of the mission of giving a voice to everyone affected by breast cancer. 

What are the benefits of being a Voice?

I want to see an increased representation of people from all backgrounds impacting breast cancer treatment and aftercare. For me, being able to encourage people to share their voice, particularly those who may feel unheard, is incredibly fulfilling. 

And Breast Cancer Now staff really recognise the value of our voices and appreciate the fresh perspectives we bring to the table – which I think is amazing. 

I’m proud to contribute to Breast Cancer Now’s mission. Being able to help others going through breast cancer to have a voice has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. 

What would you say to someone thinking about joining the network?

You should definitely join. Anyone who wants to make a lasting impact on people affected by breast cancer should definitely be part of it. There are all kinds of ways to use your passion and experiences to create positive change. 

And being a Voice can make you feel much more empowered and self-assured.

Sign up to Breast Cancer Voices

If Fola's story has inspired you to become a Voice, find out more and sign up.

Breast Cancer Voices

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