Lifting the lid on cancer and BAMER communities

Thursday 24 October 2019

We partnered with Trekstock to host a panel discussion about the issues faced by people living with cancer in BAMER communities.

On Wednesday 23 October we partnered with Trekstock to host a panel discussion highlighting the issues and addressing the topics, stigmas and lack of awareness faced by people living with cancer from the BAMER (Black Asian Minority Ethnic Refugee) community.

As part of the ‘Lifting the Lid’ series run by Trekstock, the charity that uniquely offers support to young adults diagnosed with cancer, we heard from a panel of young adults from BAMER backgrounds about their experiences of living with cancer, treatments, support and awareness in their communities.

They discussed why BAMER communities are less likely to access support, their experiences of cancer, issues within their different communities, issues for young people and cancer, taboos around being open about a cancer diagnosis and what people can do to raise awareness and representation within BAMER communities. 

Saima Thompson is 30 and living with stage four lung cancer. She talked about the language barrier she faced when she tried to explain to her mum what was happening:

When I told my mum about my diagnosis, she didn’t understand what cancer meant, it was like speaking another language. I then had to find information for her but there were no leaflets in her language or information I could give her to show her what I was going through. I eventually found a basic e-leaflet from a Pakistani hospital, but that’s all I could give her.

When it came to telling extended family members, that was difficult as well. I had one family member say to me, ‘Oh don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone.’ But the reason I told them was because I wanted other people to know. It made me feel like I should be ashamed of my diagnosis and situation. There is this pattern of silence and this is what has driven me to share my experience, because we shouldn’t be silent when it comes to life and death.

Saima Thompson, Founder of the award-winning Masala Wala Cafe, founder of the BAMER Facebook community and a Trekstock Young Adult Ambassador

Angel Shepherd, 22 and living with lymphoma, talked about secrecy and cancer in her community.

It was the older people in my community that made it very difficult for me to share my story, but I still did to be honest, I didn’t let it stop me. I decided to mute those opinions and continued to share my story.

Angel Shepherd, Trekstock Young Adult Ambassador

Yayha Asani, 32 and living with testicular cancer, talked about how people found it really uncomfortable when he started encouraging them to check themselves.

You have sex education at school, but nobody really talks about cancer, self-diagnosis, how to check yourself, when to check yourself and I think this is really important.

Yahya Asani  

There's still so much work to be done on the issues that were discussed but let's keep the conversation going. A big thank you to Trekstock and all our panelists for sharing their experiences.  

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