Opening up about a closed subject
Aunty Marg with Olympian and breast cancer survivor Raelene Boyle
I am BCNA’s first Aboriginal Community Liaison. My people are very shy and won’t talk about breast or ovarian cancer or anything like that. We call the parts of our body different names even from other dialects and it’s just a closed subject. But after I was diagnosed with breast cancer I had to make it more open and talk about it in our yarning circle. In our culture all women sit in a circle and we have a talking stick and that’s how it started me talking about breast cancer with other women.
When I was diagnosed I said, ‘It’s only cancer – I’m not going to die from it’ but I was very shocked.
I talked to Mother Earth and asked ‘why me?’ I was really angry but decided that I had the strength and will to fight it. The treatment was really intense and it was hard. There was nobody who was Aboriginal in the hospital who knew anything about breast cancer or about my culture or my heritage so I was lonely not having any friends or family around to support me or explain things.
Now I’m doing well and I advise all the women in my community and in rural areas of the benefits of early detection and I encourage them to have mammograms and to keep a check on their boobs – we call them yammans.
Anything to do with my yammans I now will go to my doctor straightaway. I tell the women that early detection can save lives. They have to learn not to be ashamed or embarrassed. That’s the best message I can get out to the women in our community. Don’t use that word ‘shame’; knock it off your shoulder.
I now travel a lot around Queensland. Aboriginal women are now coming forward and asking me to tell them about breast cancer and what sort of journey I had and what might happen to them. I hope there will be more Aboriginal liaisons with BCNA. Aboriginal women need to see another black face in hospital – just having Aboriginal support services can make you feel 100 per cent better.
I now use the phrase ‘black, bold and beautiful’.
I now have a voice in my journey, and sharing and caring are the best things we can share with other women.
- Aunty Marg, QLD