Posted on Thursday 21 October 2021

in News

“I want to be the role model I didn’t have back then”: Ore Oduba hears the experiences of young Black cancer patients this Black History Month

Ore Oduba, an ambassador of Young Lives vs Cancer, sat down with four young Black cancer survivors and patients to speak about their experiences of cancer, this Black History Month. During the hour-long zoom call, the TV presenter learnt about the impact being both young and Black had on them when they were diagnosed with cancer.  

Ore Oduba, and his wife Portia, have been supporting Young Lives vs Cancer, the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, since 2019 and became ambassadors of the charity in February 2021. The couple have supported Young Lives vs Cancer in many ways, from attending annual fundraising galas, A Very British Affair and St Nicholas Christmas party, to making a number of TV gameshow appearances, including Catchpoint and Alan Carr’s Play Your Cards Right, raising thousands of pounds for the charity. 

This Black History Month, he sat down with four young people; Enkay, Yvonne, Tawanda, and Crystal to talk about their experiences of being diagnosed with cancer as a young Black person. A video from the call follows the conversation between Ore and the four young cancer patients. 

Ore said: “In the last 12 months, so much has happened about visibility. Black Lives Matter was a movement, there was a sea of change. I felt like anything that I’ve been through now counts even more because I know there’s a spotlight. There has been a long time it hasn’t been shining and now it’s here.” 

25-year-old Enkay Rockson-Rapu was diagnosed with sarcoma in her foot when she was just 22 years old. She told Ore about her struggle of speaking out about being diagnosed with cancer within her community: “Growing up not many people spoke about cancer…it was something that you dealt with by yourself and then you showed everyone you were fine.” 

Enkay told Ore how, only now, after almost three years later, she is starting to share her story more to help open up a conversation, especially among her community, about cancer. 

“I’ve noticed that people are really happy to hear about it and they’re happy to see that transparency that I was scared to show.” 

Enkay was diagnosed with sarcoma in her foot when she was 22

Fellow cancer survivor, Crystal Marshall, spoke to Ore about the lack of representation she saw when she was being treated for facial sarcoma at 18 years old: “I already felt isolation because of my facial difference so it was especially hard whenever I looked at commercials or posters and I only saw these young white cancer patients. I felt even more isolated not seeing Black girls.” 

She told Ore about the incredible support she received from her Young Lives vs Cancer social worker, who helped her to feel more at home when going through treatment in the hospital: “He was from Jamaica, we would speak about Jamaican food and play some reggae music and it was a bit of home.” 

Crystal was diagnosed with a facial sarcoma in 2016

Young Lives vs Cancer provide specialist social workers who help young people to find the strength to face everything cancer throws at them. Enkay told Ore how being able to meet other young Black cancer patients, through events organised by the charity, helped her to feel less isolated. 

“I was like ‘wait, there’s other black people like me?’…When I met other young people I realised that there’s nothing wrong with me, it could just happen. It wasn’t a me thing, it’s just a cancer thing. Cancer doesn’t care if you’re young or old or Black or white.” 

Ore, touched by the conversations and stories he heard, said: “It was the most incredible conversation and it really gave me a brand new understanding. It really opened my eyes up to some of the challenges that young people going through cancer face on a daily basis.” 

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