I am taking the liberty of nominating two SHEros, first of all my mother, Eddress Lewis, and secondly the wonderful Emma Pennery, Clinical Director of Breast Cancer Care.
My mother was still in her twenties when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had two small children (me and my brother) and a husband who adored her. It must have been terrifying for her knowing there was a chance she wouldn’t see her children grow up. She fought the disease with great strength and determination, sometimes losing courage, but always finding it again. There was next to no support for women in her position back then – the word was hardly even mentioned, and no one ever questioned a doctor. Sadly she died at the age of 33, when I was nine and my brother was five. Cancer really did steal away the heart of our family, and yet much of her has stayed with us, and remains with us today.
It was while writing my memoir Just One More Day that I acquired a much better understanding of her and all she’d been through. In this book she “tells her own story” of what it was like to be her during that difficult time, and since its completion I have felt her with me in so many ways. She helps me to take heart when I am worried or fearful; she guides me towards another side of an argument; she is always ready with mettle and courage when a situation calls for it. She’s shown me that not even death can break the bond a mother shares with her children.
It is because of my mother that I became involved with Breast Cancer Care and its Clinical Director, the truly remarkable Emma Pennery, CBE. Emma’s quiet strength and understanding, along with her medical expertise, natural warmth and generosity is at the very heart of this charity. Thanks to her and the rest of the team women today don’t have to suffer alone or in ignorance. Emma is there for everyone; I think she finds it very hard to say no, because she truly feels for everyone who is facing this challenge.
She was there for me during the writing of Never Say Goodbye, a novel about two women from very different backgrounds who are brought together by a breast cancer diagnosis. Although it is a fictional story Emma was very aware of how important it was for anyone reading the book to have clear, helpful and correct information. So she read each chapter as I wrote it and sent back many notes to clarify points, or to make suggestions she considered relevant. It is completely true to say that I couldn’t have done it without her, and I know there are thousands of women in this country who would feel unable to cope were it not for Emma and all that she so selflessly gives to those in need.