Ravinder on ethnicity and cancer

Story
Published: 01 April 2020
Ravinder makes a cup of tea in her kitchen. She is wearing a bright red top.

After going through breast cancer, Ravinder decided to raise awareness of cancer in her local Asian community. Ravinder feels cancer is still treated as a taboo subject in Asian communities. She wants to help women become more aware of changes in their bodies, so they can be diagnosed and treated earlier.

'I'm passionate about people feeling safe to talk about cancer.'

There is a real problem in the ethnic Asian community when it comes to cancer. A lot of [people in the community], especially the older people, don’t know what the illness is or how life-threatening it can be. Living in an Asian community and having cancer is very, very hard. It’s almost like a taboo subject.

Some of the Asian community think of cancer as being a punishment from God. They still think that you are being punished. They use words explaining they think someone, with a disease like cancer, must have done something wrong in a former life. They feel like it’s something to be ashamed of. It is completely taboo.

There is not the worry about health. Instead, it is a worry about what people will think. That is the wrong attitude to have. Who cares what people think? People genuinely feel embarrassed. A lot of Asian people don’t come forward, when they could be diagnosed much earlier and [have] their lives saved.

I was public about my cancer because I believe it is nothing to be ashamed of. I am passionate about that. If you think something is wrong, then it has to be found and be dealt with as quickly as possible. People need to get as much information as possible.

'There's nothing to be ashamed of.'

I found I couldn’t talk openly to the Asian community about my diagnosis. But I felt I needed to talk about it, [to] raise awareness for other ladies out there. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I try to go to our temples and raise awareness in small groups. I try to have one-to-ones with these women, so they are aware of changes in their bodies. By communicating with them, my confidence has grown too. I get huge satisfaction from it.

Cancer has definitely changed me. I am stronger and more confident in myself. I'm passionate about people in the community feeling safe to talk about cancer and understand it.

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