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.
Hi, I’m Nerys and I’m 48. I was diagnosed when I was 41 with a tumour that literally came up over night and was the size of a gold ball. My children were 3 and 7. When my second daughter was born I took a career break from my job as a radiotherapy radiographer. Having seen numerous women during my 17 year career, I really felt I knew exactly what my lump was, and pushed for a fast diagnosis. I had a mastectomy, chemo and herceptin over 2014 and half of 2015. I didn’t ever go back to work as the chemo has left me with severe peripheral neuropathy.
My 2 girls are now 11 and 14, and alongside my husband, I think we weathered that storm together,
I miss my work massively, and so volunteer for Victim Support as well as in a nursing home for Dementia care. I’ve kept my brain ticking over by doing various courses, and I am also an admin for a Covid Facebook page - which definitely keeps my brain working, trying to keep up with all that! I enjoy being a part of the admin team on BRiC, the admins and members are an amazing group of women.
I like being out in the fresh air best, we live by the coast and nothing makes me happier than going to the seafront on a wild windy day and watching the sea froth and tumble onto the beach. Having breast cancer has definitely changed me, I’m more relaxed and grateful now, and definitely appreciate the small things.
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.