With the presentation of our flagship, Jackie Collins Inspirational Woman Award coming up in May at our Ladies Long Table Lunch event, we wanted to revisit the stories of other fantastic women to have battled cancer.
The story of the award
On Saturday, September 19 2015, we were deeply saddened to hear that popular, acclaimed author Jackie Collins OBE passed away from breast cancer. Jackie had been diagnosed in 2009 and we understand and respect her choice to keep it a secret.
The charity was honoured that Jackie, who was adored by family, friends and floods of fans asked for donations to be made in lieu of flowers.
It was through this sad circumstance that our relationship with Jackie’s family bloomed. In 2016, Joan Collins sent a video message presenting our first ever Jackie Collins Inspirational Woman Award – with the help of our Chair of Trustees, Francesca Barnes – to Nina Barough, founder of breast cancer charity, Walk the Walk. Nina’s fascinating story can be read here.
Since then, we have welcomed Jackie’s niece as a Patron of Penny Brohn UK and have worked closely with her on designing her range of healthy recipes.
The award has since been presented to Jo Malone MBE in recognition of her achievements, despite her diagnosis of breast cancer. A Q&A with Jo and our CEO, Laura Kerby, can be found here.
This year, we are excited to be presenting the Jackie Collins’ Inspirational Woman Award to another strong business mind, who combatted Breast Cancer in private. The CBE recipient has been a resilient advocate for self-care, testifying that the reason she kept h er diagnosis a secret was that she wanted to play a big part in her own recovery and was concerned that public reactions might change how positive she felt about her journey. We will be revealing more about our guest for this year’s long table lunch soon.
Nicola Jane Inspirational Women
Since the creation of the Jackie Collins Inspirational Woman Award, we have formed a partnership with mastectomy bra company, Nicola Jane. The team at Nicola Jane share our love for inspirational women and for over 10 years have featured customers as models in their catalogues. These ‘Nicola Jane Inspirational Women’ have all had surgery due to breast cancer. It is the hope of the company to encourage and inspire other women who may be going through a similar experience, after a breast cancer diagnosis.
We wanted to share some of these stories with you, to encourage that both those in the public eye and those who are not famous can be inspirational.
I don’t know if I would be the same person without having cancer. Through my own experience I learnt that I need to treat myself the way you treat the person you love the most, have no more expectations of yourself than you would them. Look to people who give you hope, inspire you and give your courage when you feel the most alone, but don’t measure yourself against them especially if your point in this journey is not the same as theirs. You will get through this, sometimes a week at a time, sometimes a day and sometimes a minute. Throughout your journey you will experience a whole range of emotions; but remember it is OK to cry and be scared, let it out. Since my surgery I have spent time working out what suits my shape and lifestyle. I do have to be very careful with necklines, not just because of the mastectomy but the radiotherapy has left me with blemishes. If I go to buy something that I know I would have to keep checking to make sure nothing was showing – I just don’t buy it. I had to get rid of a lot of my clothes, which in some ways was part of the bereavement process, however I do hope someone else is having a fabulous time wearing some of my favourite dresses! My advice to any woman would be to wear what makes you feel confident and fabulous, dress just in case you will be snapped by the paparazzi and smile!
My biggest achievement to date is making it through treatment. There were times when I wanted to give up, although I never actually would have. It was a massive effort at times to pick myself up from each low point and put on a brave face to the outside world, when all I really wanted to do was hide away. I am quite proud of myself for doing it. From my diagnosis through to my recovery I have realised that I am much stronger than I previously thought! My kids helped me through my treatment. I very much wanted to keep everything as ‘normal’ as possible, so we lived our life with as little change as possible. I took them to school and picked them up almost every day (except directly after surgery when I couldn’t drive and a couple of days during my chemo cycles). My treatment became just an additional thing in our lives rather than the focus. At the end of the day I wanted to be around when they grow up so I made a pact with myself that I would do whatever it took, no matter how hard, to make that happen. Breast cancer truly is an emotional roller coaster. Some days you feel ready to take on the world and others days like you could cry and never stop. It is important to find someone you can really talk to otherwise the thoughts can send you on a downward spiral of doom and gloom. I requested counselling and that has helped enormously!