“I noticed people who needed the support, needed to see people who looked like them and understood their culture. It was only when I was seen by a black healthcare assistant that I got the help I needed. They did not know how to identify with their black patients”

Racism has been a problem within our society and doesn’t stop for those even effected by Cancer. Yet that hasn’t stopped Rose Thompson and the Sistas Against Cancer who have been champions of the black and ethnic minority cancer community. The Sistas have quietly and effectively been helping many people through their cancer journeys within BME communities in Nottingham. Their objective? To spread awareness for the needs of black and ethnic minorities in GPs. This was Rose Thompson’s vision when she realised many of the nurses, physicians and carers she came across did not know how to relate to patients from different cultures.

The Sistas Against Cancer support group was created when their founder and leader Rose Thompson became a carer for her mother who had cancer. It was during this time she noticed there were no charities that helped people dealing with cancer treatment at the time, especially support groups within the black community. The racism Rose and her family faced during the 70s and 80s in Clifton has motivated much of the work she does today and is the reason Rose created SAC.

Coun Mumtaz said: “The blackout in Kashmir has caused a lot of tensions within Kashmiri communities in Nottingham.”

“We need to our bit to end the atrocities that are taking place in Kashmir every day for over  three months now.”

A Kashmir motion was passed in her name at Nottingham City Council on 11 November, 2019.

The motion pledges to write to the High Commissioners of India on behalf of Nottingham citizens calling for the immediate lifting of the curfew.

“There weren’t the charities that helped people dealing with treatment in those days. I noticed a lot of people did not know where to find support. There were single parents, people who were really struggling.”
Even now, in a more culturally diverse society, Rose is still reminded of an all too familiar problem. The lack of cultural awareness among many of the staff within GPs she has visited unsettles her. Much of the Sistas work revolves around the education of nurses, physicians and carers, making them more culturally aware to better understand and help their patients.

“I had 9 grams removed from under my arm and because of this the arm gets very swollen. The best way to deal with it is to compress it with a tight glove. Initially I was given a pink glove and I said I didn’t want a pink glove as it didn’t suit my skin colour or make me feel comfortable.”

As the person that led the initiative for a wider range of colours for the prosthesis gloves, it comes as a surprise that the young nurse did not know more colours were available. What surprises Thompson more is the lack of knowledge from the nurse. Rose has campaigned for mandatory diversity training within GPs across the country and to have an experience such as this shows there is still a misunderstanding of culture and the needs of black people. Through experiences such as this it shows there is still a lot of work to be done.

“People don’t value diversity. It was only when I was seen by a black healthcare assistant that I got the help that I needed.”

The exhibition held by the Sistas Against Cancer in Lenton’s New Art Exchange was a response to the lack of understanding in our society. The exhibit displayed a series of pictures which represented the experiences of woman affected by cancer within the black, ethnic, Asian and refugee community within Nottingham. The idea coming from Thompson herself. The Objective of the exhibit was to get people to understand the black culture with this context. To familiarise hospitals, nurses and doctors with black cancer patients and their needs to better take care of their ethnic patients. It did not occur to the white nurse to look for a different coloured prosthesis that were designed for people with different skin complexion. Is it a coincidence that the black healthcare assistant was able to cater to Rose’s needs? Or is this a reflection of the healthcare system failing to educate their employees on the needs of people from different backgrounds.

“The council and social services need to make diversity training compulsory. The problem is o one wants to volunteer for this kind of training. There is the problem. Diversity training is a must in this country.”
The Use of photos to spread a message about the needs of black cancer patients throughout their treatment. A visual representation supersedes what can be written in words and this was the objective Rose had when the idea to show, rather than tell the experiences of cancer patients from the BME community.

“They didn’t have any photographic images of black people in their campaigns, I was the first one to tell them to place black people on their photo campaigns for prostate cancer. Black men are 2-3 times more likely to get prostate cancer”

The exhibition was also Nottingham’s response to much of the cultural and social education that was happening in London. Rose herself taught diversity training to hundreds in leading health organisations which resulted in improved feedback from patients. Its clear to see she takes pride in the work she does with the help of her Sistas. Rose resembles the social justice warriors from the past but in this context. A leading warrior for change in the most unlikely places.

“Sistas against cancer was a response to a lot of happening in London but not around here. Nottingham hasn’t been great when funding BME organisations, both my husband and I retired early to get a lumpsum to put into BME cancer communities.”

“The goal is to continue to share experiences and to develop a rolling chair, where different people get to share their stories. Let’s talk about women and cancer.”