Meet Bettina

Meet Bettina quote

Jamaican born, mother of 3 and grandmother of 5 Bettina is a retired Civil Servant and Florist. She is a patient involvement network member and is currently on our Online Cancer Insights Panel. For Black History Month, we asked Bettina to share her experience of being involved in Cancer Research UK’s work and how she is using her voice to improve awareness of cancer in her community and sharing her experience of cancer as a black woman to help shape our work.

“I moved to the UK as a 9-year-old girl to join my parents. In the last few years, I’ve been labelled as a Child of Windrush - a term I’d never heard before, one that doesn’t resonate with me. 

I lost a close family friend, and it wasn’t until she died that I knew she had cancer. Following a mammogram, I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. I had a pea-sized tumour removed from my right breast and to date, I’m cancer-free. I’m lucky as it was caught early, cancer wasn’t something I’d ever thought about being a part of my life. I wanted to know more about cancer.

I wanted to understand more about cancer and speak about it more confidently within my community. People from my ethnic background, especially the elderly, don’t like to talk about it and refer to it only as ‘the big C’. Treatments can be kept a secret and create feelings of shame.

My journey working with Cancer Research UK began when I saw a post on social media to join the Online Cancer Insights Panel and thought “I can do that”. I wanted to make a difference, however small. At the time I remember seeing very few pictures or articles about the impact of cancer in black people (Afro-Caribbean). I wanted to bring something unique to Cancer Research UK and I’m not afraid to ask those uncomfortable questions about who looks like me in your organisation or who speaks for me.

I’ve been involved in various patient involvement panels, assisted with the recruitment of the Head of Involvement, and most recently have been accepted to be a part of the newly formed Inclusion in Involvement Steering Group.

Working with Cancer Research UK has allowed me to share my views and experiences as a black woman and a cancer survivor. I’ve met some amazing people and have felt valued as a person. I want to ensure the Afro-Caribbean agenda is not something to be side-tracked because of a lack of expertise or understanding.

I’ve seen change recently, particularly in Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion, where Cancer Research UK is putting people like me at the heart of how it works. It’s an amazing organisation, however, without the voice and experiences of ALL people affected by cancer, the whole story isn’t told.

I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Cancer Research UK to help break the cycle of health inequalities in cancer from research to early detection and treatment.”

Network member Bettina is using her experience of cancer as a black woman to help shape our work. We want to hear from ALL people affected by cancer to ensure ALL voices are heard. Join our network and find exciting ways to get involved in our work.

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