Our Research Team

About Us:

Naz (Head of Team)

Hi, I’m Naz. I’m an academic and I specialise in the neurocognitive science of anxiety and depression at The School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at The University of Reading. I am especially interested in what mechanisms can make us prone to developing anxiety and depression and how we can learn the practice of resilience. 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 interventions that boost our cognitive brain systems becoming more efficient. We have developed interventions to improve cognitive function in the hope to reduce emotional vulnerability and boost resilience.

Bethany Chapman (Post-doctoral research assistant)

Hi, I am Beth. I am a post-doctoral research assistant at the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading, being mentored by Naz. I also did my MSc and PhD under the supervision of Naz and Prof Beth Grunfeld at Birkbeck University of London. I am particularly interested in examining the impact of cancer-related cognitive impairment and anxiety and depression on work-related outcomes, as well as investigating cognitive training interventions and strategies that can be utilised to remediate the difficulties faced by women after a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Karina Dolgilevica (PhD student)

Hi, my name is Karina. I am a PhD student based at the Department of Psychological Sciences at Birkbeck, University of London, under the supervision of Prof Naz Derakhshan and Prof Beth Grunfeld. I am interested in developing and optimising low-intensity interventions such as breathing techniques to improve emotional wellbeing and neurocognitive functioning in women with breast cancer diagnosis. I am particularly interested in long-term and short-term application of Heart Rate Variability biofeedback and paced breathing techniques and their effects on self-regulation and psychological wellbeing. I am also interested in exploring the effects of these techniques on other comorbidities commonly seen in women with breast cancer, including sleep disturbance, menopausal hot flushes. I use both qualitative and quantitative research methods in my research. My goal is to develop and optimize simple, non-invasive techniques for women with breast cancer, which can be safely self-administered to help boost resilience and self-regulation capacity.

Courtney Louis

Courtney (she/her) is a fifth-year graduate student in the MSU Clinical Science program. She graduated with a BA in Psychology from Hunter College in 2016, and previously worked as a RA and lab coordinator in Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary’s Emotion Regulation Lab. She is broadly interested in the association between anxiety and cognitive processes (e.g., cognitive control) in female populations, and the use of neurobiological measures to assist with our understanding of this. Importantly, she is also committed to expanding our understanding of these processes in Black women. She hopes that her work will help better inform treatment approaches, our knowledge of mental health, and policy. In her free time, Courtney enjoys listening to music, spending time with family, and cooking.

Professor Beth Grunfeld (Professor of Psychosocial Oncology)

Specialises in psycho-social oncology and the psychosocial outcomes following diagnosis and treatment (mainly among patients with benign and non-benign lesions) and on the development of interventions to support patients.

Professor Jason Moser (Professor of Clinical and Affective Neuroscience)

I am a clinical neuroscientist and specialise in the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying our ability to regulate cognition, emotion and behaviour, and their clinical significance in terms of their roles in the development, maintenance, and treatment of anxiety and depression.

Joanne Taylor (Founder of abcdiagnosis and MET UP UK)

Jo is Founder of abcdiagnosis and MET UP UK. She has developed the SBC Infographics, a tool which can empower women to detect and act on signs of secondary breast cancer.

Our Support Network Team

About Us:

Naz (Founder and Director of BRiC)

On January 2, 2013, I was diagnosed with multi-focal 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 active treatment and I became aware of the lack of psychological support for women after active treatment when emotional vulnerability looms high. I became determined to apply my research on neurocognitive interventions in anxiety and depression to target emotional vulnerability and promote resilience towards a better quality of life in women with a breast cancer diagnosis. I was passionate to set up the centre for building resilience in breast cancer thanks to my mum who was the inspiration behind it. Our educational support network has grown with around 2100 UK members, with either a primary or secondary diagnosis of breast cancer. I have an amazing admin team behind me who has made our centre the award winning and successful network yet.

Vickie (Deputy Head of BRiC)

“I am Vickie, I am married with one child and have worked in my current job since 2008. Not a strategic career move, but the money is good and my bosses are nice which has been worth it’s weight in gold since my diagnosis with Primary Breast Cancer in April 2020 ( just after the first Covid lockdown began).

It was after active treatment had finished later that year that I was really struggling and found out about BRiC through a friend of a friend. I cannot express how much the group has helped me through some really dark times. The gentle, unwavering, support really bridged a big gap in my aftercare. The activities and discussions have helped me to process my experience over a long period of time and enabled me to accept my “new normal”.

When I was asked to join the BRiC admin team, I saw an opportunity to help others and to give something back for all the amazing support I’d received. I hope that together we can push forward to improve the recovery for everyone with a primary diagnosis and the quality of life for those who go on to receive a secondary diagnosis.”

Laura (Admin and Founder of Living with Hope)

I lectured in Further Education for many years and managed a large Health and Care department within a college. After two episodes of primary breast cancer, I decided to make a career change. I am self-employed now and work as a Mindfulness Meditation teacher, delivering group and one-to-one mindfulness and meditation sessions, curating and delivering Wellbeing Retreat days, and periodically taking part in public speaking at events and seminars. I am married to my husband Paul. We have been married for 30 years and breast cancer has been part of our lives for 20 of those years. I say ‘our’ because I feel very strongly that it’s important to acknowledge the impact that this disease has upon the relationships with our partners and family members.

I was first diagnosed with ER+ primary breast cancer in September 2001 aged 34. My two children were six months old and three years old. I had a lumpectomy and 25 sessions of radiotherapy and began to take Tamoxifen. Unfortunately, three years later, another, non-related tumour grew in the same breast. In September 2004, I had a mastectomy followed by a reconstruction using an implant and part of my latissimus dorsi muscle. I continued to take Tamoxifen but in December 2007, I received the devastating news that I had developed metastatic breast cancer affecting my lungs and pleural lining.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer there was no Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. It was a very lonely place to be aged 34 with primary breast cancer. I knew nobody like me. All of that has changed of course; social media platforms have helped enormously to provide support, information, and knowledge exchange so that nobody has to face breast cancer alone. This is one of the reasons that I’m very proud to be a voluntary admin for BRIC. Our private Facebook group provides support, care, and a whole lot of mutual understanding, meaning that our members are never alone following a diagnosis of breast cancer. The idea of building resilience post-breast cancer diagnosis wasn’t something that was discussed 20 years ago when I was first diagnosed but we now live in a world where research shows us that our ability to boost our resilience post-diagnosis is something that can be very helpful in living day-to-day with this disease. BRIC helps us all to boost our resilience daily and for that, I am very grateful.

I am passionate about spreading the message about the importance of people who receive a breast cancer diagnosis accessing appropriate mental health support. I am who I am today because of the ongoing psychological support I receive. I have gone from feeling ashamed that I required psychological help back in 2008 to finding the confidence to talk openly about how breast cancer has affected my mental wellbeing. Being a BRIC admin allows me to support other people experiencing breast cancer. It is like being part of a big family!

Jan (Admin)

Jan here, I’m an admin manager in an apprenticeship assessment organisation. Almost 11 years ago I was diagnosed 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 since 1988, 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 and our first grandchild was born just before my cancer diagnosis, the second three years later; they are the light of my life.

We live in North West England, but we spend every spare moment at our caravan in mid-Wales. Despite living in a large town, I am a country girl at heart and I need green fields around me to feel at peace.

I joined BRiC two months after it was formed, I found it via a friend who is sadly no longer with us. I knew immediately that 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 BRiC admin team and I enjoy being part of something so helpful.”

Kate (Admin)

Kate here. I trained as a therapy radiographer working in a busy radiotherapy centre. Problems with my joints led me to change career. I now run a lymphoedema clinic in the oncology department where I had my treatment .

I was diagnosed with Grade 3 mixed ductal and lobular cancer with 1 positive node. I had a lumpectomy, full axillary node clearance. I started chemo in Jan 2020, but only had 4 cycles of chemo as it was deemed too risky at the height of Covid. I had 5 sessions of radiotherapy.

I’m not married, or have and kids but have a very complicated relationship .

My biggest passion in life is live music, and I’ve been all over the UK, Europe and the US to see bands I love. I love red wine, gin and my idea of a great night is a table, surrounded by good friends, great food and conversation.

I love my friends and see them as family, I’m an only child and am not hugely close to my cousins. I’m a Trade Union rep at work which is massively satisfying, helping people get fair results and answers to work related issues.

I love my job, but my dream job would be something in fashion/beauty. I love clothes, handbags, I’m still trying to find the perfect mascara after 40 years of searching !

Lavinia (Admin)

Hello I’m Lavinia and a recent addition to the BRiC Admin Team. It is a privilege to be part of this amazing group of women. I was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Cancer in Christmas 2015. I used to run an ‘Out Of Home’ Design and Marketing Agency for 20+ years with my husband of 36 years. I now work part-time for the NHS. My husband and I have four sons between us and eleven grandchildren! We also have a big, loveable dog who brings a lot of joy to our lives.

Marilyn (Admin)

I am Marilyn, I am married with 4 children and have 2 grandchildren. I used to be an analytical chemist worked for several companies, including St Thomas’s Hospital London. I stopped work when my 3rd child was born.

I was diagnosed with Primary Breast Cancer Grade 3 with 3 lymph nodes affected in May 2014, already having been diagnosed with Thyroid cancer in March 2008 and recurrence for this in a parathyroid gland in November 2010.

It was after active treatment had finished I was trying to push myself through recovery trying to pretend everything was normal. In 2018 a very close friend of mine knew I wasn’t coping and saw a post on the BRiC public page and sent me a link in a private message. At first I used to just look at peoples comments, I started to realise I wasn’t alone, I was in a very dark place, but with the love and support of the ladies In this group I found myself coping. It is difficult to write in words how much I appreciate this group.

When I was asked to join the BRiC admin team, I took my time to accept as I was worried what I could bring to the team as I’m very shy and lack confidence, but then I thought if I could give some of help and support I’d received back to other people it would be amazing.

Jane (Admin)

Hi, I’m Jane and I recently joined the BRiC Admin Team. I am proud to be part of this amazing group.

I was diagnosed with high grade DCIS in 2015 and had two lumpectomies and radiotherapy. I then had a recurrence of invasive lobular cancer in the same breast on New Years Eve 2020. I had a mastectomy and node removal 2 days later!

I owned a graphic design and marketing agency with my husband, but took early retirement in 2017.

I then realised I quite enjoyed working….but not the stress of my own business!…..so now I am a receptionist in an osteopathic clinic two days a week and volunteer at my local hospital as a Chaplaincy ward visitor (I’m an active Catholic) and also help run the snack bar for my local cancer charity.

I’m married to Gary, and we celebrate 40 years next year! We live in Devon and enjoy walking, eating and drinking in this lovely part of the country.

I’m a keen runner and gym bunny….this has helped me enormously with clearing head space and keeping me sane! I also read a lot and am mad about jigsaws!

My motto….’enjoy each day and be kind to others’.

Claire (Admin)

I’m Claire, 60 next year and busy planning celebrations. I’m happily married with triplet sons, now 25 and living with their lovely girlfriends.

My primary diagnosis was in 2010 – grade 3 invasive ductile cancer which was ER+, HER2 negative. I had a lumpectomy and full lymph node clearance. 8 cycles of EC chemotherapy followed by 9 years of Tamoxifen. Fast forward to 2019. I had a virus and lost my voice. Several weeks later and after a few visits to GP and antibiotics and steroids which didn’t help, I was referred for a chest X-Ray and urgent referral to ENT “just in case”. ENT discovered an inactive vocal chord so ordered an urgent CT scan. This confirmed my GOs suspicion that a tumour was pressing on my vocal chord so I was referred back to oncology. Further scans revealed a large metastatic area in my sternum, several small areas in my spine and a mass on my liver.

Such a shock – all this on the day my dad passed away. So much to process. I was immediately started on Letrozole and followed up with Abemaciclib. I’m now 3 years on and still on my first line of treatment. Thankfully there is no longer evidence of active cancer. Roll on my 60th birthday celebrations!!

BRiC is grateful to its former admin members as well as its former Deputy Heads (Tamsin Sargeant, Vicky Wilkes and Anita Traynor) who played a significant role in the making and development of BRiC.