The BRiC team


Professor Nazanin Derakhshan (Founder of BRiC)



Hi, I'm Naz. I'm an academic and I specialise in the neurocognitive science of anxiety and depression at the Department of Psychological Sciences (ranked 5th in the UK for research) at Birkbeck University of London. Through studying the brain, I am especially interested in what mechanisms can make us prone to the effects of anxiety and depression and how can we move towards being resilient. Our research has shown that attentional control and processing efficiency can play a determining role in the onset, maintenance, and recurrence of anxiety and depressive symptoms and as such can be targeted to boost resilience through cognitive exercises that promote attentional control and processing efficiency. We have developed interventions to improve cognitive function in the hope to reduce emotional vulnerability and boost resilience.


On January 2, 2013, I was diagnosed with multifocal breast cancer when I was in my 30s, in the prime of my life, and my daughter was just under 3 years of age. It took me a while to regain my confidence post cancer treatment and slowly I became determined to apply my research knowledge to target emotional vulnerability and promote resilience towards a better quality of life in breast cancer. I was passionate to set up the centre for building resilience in breast cancer which was founded on October 19, 2015, thanks to my mum who was the inspiration behind it.  Our private educational support group now has just over 1750 UK members with Breast Cancer. I have an amazing admin team behind me who has made our centre the award winning successful support group that it is. 


Anita Traynor (Deputy Head of BRiC)


The summer of 2015 was a low point in my life: I was recovering from breast cancer: diagnosed in November 2014, I had finished active treatment and was coming to terms with the long term side effects of the trauma and the medication; I had taken voluntary redundancy from my career of nearly thirty years, and I was unsure of my identity without my work; I had re-trained as a counsellor but had no motivation to do anything with it, and the voluntary work I had taken on at my local hospice was impossible to return to, as I found it too emotional; my youngest son left home and the country to go travelling and a few weeks weeks later my mother died.
Two things saved me that Autumn: BRiC and a community choir. Fast forward to the start of 2020, and I'm celebrating my fifth year NED. I've got my oncologist's go ahead to stop letrozole, although my original prescription was for ten years. I'm hoping to feel better in this new decade, in this new year which will bring my 60th birthday, than I've felt in a long time.  I'm still singing, I found a new volunteering activity at a community cafe, and I'm dancing again too, having returned to Zumba which I didn't think I'd ever be able to do.
I'll never shake off the fear, and I'll always be mindful of how blessed I am to be well.  I live quietly, appreciatively, with gratitude.  I am privileged and proud to support Naz and her vision for BRiC, and alongside my admin family I hope to provide support to other women blighted by this horrible disease with a few small words of comfort here and there.
Holding hands, together we are stronger. 


Jan Snape (BRiC Admin)



Hi, Jan here, I’m an admin manager in an apprenticeship assessment organisation. I was diagnosed when I was 48 with invasive lobular breast cancer, I found it purely by chance as I couldn’t feel a lump, just a barely visible dimple. A whirlwind of treatment followed, at the end of which I was left in a complete daze.

My life now is in some ways very different, in some just the same. I am more easy-going, I tend to worry less and I’ve cut my hours at work. I’ve been married to my hubby for over 30 years, we lived together for 6 years before we got married (the wedding was just an excuse for a party really). We have four grown up children, one still lives at home, and the others live fairly close to us, so we see them regularly. My first grandchild was born just before my cancer diagnosis, my second three years later; they are the light of my life. We currently live in North West England, but we’d like to move to Wales eventually – a place in the country…if we can find the right place. Despite living in a large town, I am a country girl at heart and I need green fields around me to feel at peace, so we currently make do with spending as much time as we can at our caravan in mid-Wales.

I joined BRiC two months after it was formed, I found it via a friend and immediately knew I would feel at home here. It’s been a huge support to me when I’ve had wobbly moments, I love the honesty and openness of our members and the way we all support each other. Knowing that the things we go through, the side effects, the long-term changes, the emotional issues, are all shared with others is so reassuring. I was honoured to be asked to join the admin team and I enjoy being part of something so helpful.


Dr Caroline Humber (BRiC Admin)


I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer in 2015 when I was 44. My two beloved girls were 9 and 3 at the time. I was knocked side ways with the news but started promptly on chemotherapy, followed by mastectomy and lymph nodes removal, radiotherapy, Herceptin for a year and ongoing hormone therapy. My job as clinical oncology consultant (oh, the irony) did not really prepare me for how awful chemotherapy was for me and there was no sugar coating the diagnosis and it’s implications. None the less, I plodded on, hitting the all too common post treatment emotional fall out which seems so common. I got myself back to work which was harder than I thought and felt I was making baby steps forward.

 In February 2017 I had a seizure and was diagnosed with a single secondary deposit in the brain. To say that we fell apart with this news is an understatement. I swiftly went onto brain surgery to remove the lesion. I have now had the same area removed 3 times and cyberknife radiotherapy too but it just keeps growing back. More recently, there is a suspicion of spread to the lining of the brain and we have been told that my prognosis is now poor. Having said that, physically I remain really well and am now on a brand new drug for HER2 positive breast cancer which can hopefully get into the brain and slow things down. It’s been so hard - I’ve lost my career (which I loved), my independence (can’t drive) and am now aware of my own mortality. I do however get much more time with my children - they are fabulous, brave and resilient. My husband is my rock - holding a full time job as well as my hand is not easy! I cannot begin to describe the importance of support with others in the same situation - sometimes only those who know can help! I am proud to have been asked to help support BRiC.

Andria Fruin (BRiC Admin)
Hi I am Andria, Andie or Dre depending on when you met me in my life! I am 52 years old and married for the 2nd time to Richard.
We have 6 children between us all adults ranging from 30 to 22 all married or living with partners and we also have Florence who is only 9 years old. We also have a 10 month old grandson Finley whom I adore!          
Richard is currently being treated for stage 3 melanoma with immunotherapy and is currently NED. Jett our border collie x cairn terrier (what a mix) joined us In February to try to help Florence cope with Richards dx.
Hobbies - reading, walking the dog, meeting friends and Gin, definitely Gin.
I have had a number of jobs before doing my social care degree. I have worked for children social care for 14 years in the Local Authority dealing with all aspects of issues for children including child protection as looked after children. I now work in CAFCASS which was by career goal and I LOVE it.
I was diagnosed 7 years ago when I was 46 years old, the age my paternal grandmother was initially when she was diagnosed. There is a very strong history in my dad side of the family and his mother, her sisters and their mother all died of BC. Because I am so like my dad I had a strong feeling I would also develop it and was vigilant as a result.  Dad and I have had genetic testing before I was dx but do not have the identified BRCA genes.
Because of family history, I had a bilateral mastectomy and Strattice recon. I was lucky and did not need chemo or radiotherapy and am currently on tamoxifen for 10 years although not sure I ever want to come off it as it feels like a safety blanket. Less than a year later I had a hysterectomy as further attempt to prevent cancer in the future. I do feel that I got off lightly because I didn’t have chemo and I have to remind myself that I had to have a bilateral mastectomy!! That’s not getting off lightly!
I came across BRiC by chance, not really sure how but I think I joined very near the start (my claim is being the 100th member!) I had been on other forums but found them quite depressing. I don’t think I really knew what support I was looking for. It took me a long while to realise that burying my head didn’t help my fears and that the only way I could cope was by educating myself and that is what BRiC has done, BRiC has educated me about breast cancer and has given me the information and tools that I think I was looking for to be able to deal with not only the physical side effects of cancer but also the psychological impact.
Bal Nanray (BRiC Admin)

Hi I’m Bal, I’m 56 and I have worked in the global corporate banking world for 30 years in total. 20 years with my current employers as a global risk senior manager in the chief control office, looking after risks in 52 markets and specialising in the Latin American Region. A very stressful job at times! glad to get off the rat race treadmill! I have currently taken voluntary redundancy and am on 3 months gardening leave. New year, new start, some downtime at the moment.

I was diagnosed when I was 52 with invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer, on GCSE results day 20th August 2015, routine annual work medical including mammogram.

No symptoms, no lump, no family history!

2 invasive surgeries which included right mastectomy and 12 lymph nodes auxiliary clearance, 8 aggressive rounds of chemotherapy, 15 rounds of radiotherapy. Tamoxifen for 1 year and then another surgery for removal of fibroids & polyps, and then switched to Letrozole 10years.

Cancer came into my life, like an uninvited guest to a party and disrupted the carefree, vivacious person I was and has changed mine and our family’s life forever.

I lost my identify and feminism, accepting a new normal is hard, however I now have a new outlook on life and realistic expectations and look at things through a new lens..... letting go of the past, living in the present and optimistic for the future.

I know what and who is important like my family, those new friends by my side and my BRIC family. I used to be timid and let people walk all over me but now I am more relaxed and more selfish by putting myself first! 

When I went back to work after 15months I reduced my working week by one day a week and this is my day to do nothing or something for myself!

I have been married for 28 years to my husband, my soulmate. We have one son who has just turned 20, he is in his 2nd year at one of the worlds top universities, studying Economics/Politics and Philosophy, they are my 2 rocks who are very supportive and did not let me fall when I was diagnosed and throughout treatment.....feel very blessed.

We currently live in Essex near Epping Forest..... love the long walks in the forest and not too far from London. I love going to the gym, Aerobics, Pilates & Zumba and I practice mediation to calm myself when the going gets tough!

I volunteer for various charities like: 

•Breast Cancer Care Now charity in different areas like  speaker events, mentoring,campaigns, focus groups, blogs and I was a model in the 2017 fashion show.

•NHS cancer patient advocate, making sure the voice of the patient is heard and acknowledged for future research and development.

•Princes Trust Mentor for disadvantaged youths, helping them with self esteem and self confidence to gain employment.

•School governor for a local special needs school.

I stumbled across BRiC Feb 2016, when I was going through chemotherapy & radiotherapy.The amount of knowledge and helpful advice I get out of this lovely caring & supportive group (my family), where I have no fear of judgement and can be open about anything & everything. A place that is a safe haven and welcoming with open arms. Always easy to let go of my most vulnerable moments, without feeling afraid and I feel at home and be can be myself. Amazing how we can lean on each other during our darkest hour when our emotions are all over the place and we need a sounding board to give us the ability to move forward step by step together holding hands!

I am humbled and grateful to be part of the BRIC admin team, where I can make a difference to others in our community.

Fiona Gibson (BRiC Admin)




I’m Fiona, I was born in Kent and brought up in Cumbria where I now live. I am a nurse, and married to another nurse, Paul. We have two sons aged 23 and 21. On 21st Dec 2011 I found a pea sized lump under my right breast. After tests grade 3 lymph node positive cancer was confirmed. I turned down chemo after a private oncotype test which suggested chemo was more of a risk than a benefit.  I had a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, followed by radiotherapy. I then took tamoxifen. 
After nearly 5 years clear, abdominal pain led to tests which confirmed pelvic and sacroiliac secondary cancer. I’ve had a variety of invasive treatments, with steroids leaving me high and with a tourettes like mania. I settled again on tamoxifen, and managed to get back to work for a while. Then my bone mets forced me to give up the work I loved and I took medical retirement. Two years later, after seeing a psychologist, I’m accepting my retirement. I changed to letrozole and denosumab injections monthly, and I’ve also accepted anti-depressants which are helping me to cope. I take strong pain relief medication.
Recently I’ve struggled with more pain and my regular scans were brought forward to investigate, via a visit to A&E followed by admission, and a very long wait as it was Christmas.  Results confirm my disease has progressed.  I’m waiting to find out what’s next for my treatment plan, and I’m back on the nightmare steroids again. More drugs, possibly more radiotherapy. In the meantime I’ve been enjoying time with friends and family, and my birthday. 
I am generally an active sporty person, and I love road cycling, horses, fell walking, and sailing - as a family we own a couple of dinghies and a share in a cruising yacht. As cancer has put a stop to most of this I've taken up crafting, and enjoy learning new skills e.g. crochet, card making, quilting, felting and jewellery making. My motto is 'Keep busy and carry on!'
Dr Bex Lewis (BRiC Admin)
Credit: Mark Dodgeon
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University, with a particular interest in digital culture and the digital environment, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, includes social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst  (Lion Hudson, 2014), of which a second edition is in preparation for 2020. Alongside academic journal articles, she has authored a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and pressand can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl. You can find more about me here:


Laura Ashurst (BRiC Admin)
Hello you!
Hi there!  My name is Laura Ashurst.  I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. For the last 16 years I’ve also been a cancer patient at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough;  I’m one of the one in eight women worldwide who develops breast cancer in her lifetime. I’m also a human being behind that statistic. I’m me and I’m living with cancer.