‘Seen to be Heard’ – a voice for those with Secondary Breast Cancer

Wednesday May 18th 2022

Fifteen of the ladies who feature in the campaign, the 16th lady preferred to be anonymous. Cheryl Graham is in the centre of the pictures in red.

Fifteen of the ladies who feature in the campaign, the 16th lady preferred to be anonymous. Cheryl Graham is in the centre of the pictures in red.

The wife of a Connor clergyman is spearheading a campaign for improved services for all those living with Secondary Breast Cancer.

A powerful photograph of Cheryl Graham, captured by her friend and fellow campaigner Jennifer Willis, highlights the impact of this incurable cancer and forms part of an exhibition currently on display at the Belfast Exposed Gallery in Donegall Street, near Church of Ireland House. (Scroll to bottom to see the picture)

The Seen to be Heard exhibition features 32 images of 16 women. In these, renowned local photographer Jennifer has captured the women both as they live their daily lives and as they bravely bare the scars and trauma inflicted on their bodies by the cancer and the treatment they endure.  

Cheryl and Kevin Graham with sons Jamie and Luke. This picture was taken by Jennifer Willis in December 2020, before Cheryl started her treatment. ©Jennifer Willis

It is raw and powerful. In a video presentation, Jennifer talks about the campaign and how it came about, and the women featured, including Cheryl, tell their own stories.

What comes across is the lack of both compassion and empathy these ladies have experienced which many say contrasts dramatically with the care they received when dealing with Primary Breast Cancer.

Cheryl is married to the Rev Canon Kevin Graham, rector of St Bartholomew’s, Stranmillis, and is mum to Jamie and Luke. She was diagnosed with Primary Breast Cancer 12 years ago, but although she was told her chances of the cancer returning were on a par with any other woman who had not had primary breast cancer, the cancer did come back. In November 2020, Cheryl learned she had Secondary Breast Cancer. This is incurable, although patients receive treatment to help them survive as long as possible.  

Presentation of Seen to be Heard manifesto at Stormont on March 16.

The ladies featured in the Seen to be Heard exhibition formed their own support group. In March, they took their campaign to Stormont where they met with the Health Committee and MLAs.

They are calling for greater representation for those with Secondary Breast Cancer in Northern Ireland’s Cancer strategy. This includes a clinical audit; access to clinical trials as well as drugs and treatments available in other regions of the UK; specialist nurse care in all parts of Northern Ireland and access to quality, timely equitable and person-centred care.

Seen to be Heard opened in Belfast Exposed on April 28 and the exhibition, which is free to visit, continues until May 28.

  • Cheryl will share her personal story and what has fuelled this campaign in the Summer issue of our diocesan magazine Connor Connections, which will be available in parishes in mid-June.

Cheryl – by Jennifer Willis. Photograph used with permission. ©Jennifer Willis

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