9th November 2021

Lung cancer in BAME communities: Dipti’s story

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Dipti lost her father, Keshu, to lung cancer in 2019. She shares her experiences as part of our Spot the Difference campaign to help other families avoid what her family have suffered.

I think within the BAME community, there is that feeling that cancer equals death or it’s like a punishment because many of the BAME religions are about “what goes around comes around.” “You reap what you sow.”

But as we know, diseases can’t be helped. Sometimes it can be environmental. Sometimes it can be genetic. Sometimes it can be just chance and we can’t control these things and I think that we have to change that perception.

I remember looking back at pictures of my dad after he died and I can now see that there were visible changes. I can see that he’d lost weight. That was really unusual for him; I’ve never seen him lose weight. I mean he would put it on! Definitely, but there was never any weight loss so that was certainly a symptom.

Then there was the coughing. He’d had coughs here and there but this was a different cough and you could notice that it was very deep, very chesty. But Dad wouldn’t talk about it. He had the attitude that he was ok, that there was nothing to worry about and everything was fine – even when his cough got really bad and I don’t think that’s an uncommon response within the BAME community.

Within the BAME community, we all recognise cancer is scary and the word cancer ignites a little fear that it ultimately leads to death. Because of this people want to keep it as a secret, keep it undercover and not talk about it. They would rather just deal with it by themselves.

I think, within the BAME community, illness is also quite a taboo subject to speak about.

My dad was diagnosed with lung cancer very late on. It was only 10 days before his passing that we all found out that he had lung cancerso there was no time to react or digest what was going on but even within the 10 days, I think he wanted to just keep it to himself. He didn’t want to share it.

Also, he’s the dad. He’s my dad. My mom’s husband. He is the head of the house and the pillar and he wanted to protect us and this is my main message to the younger generations within the BAME community; to really keep that awareness, really notice any of these symptoms in your parents, your grandparents and particularly our male relatives – our fathers, our brothers, our uncles – because they are very much about providing for their families and focusing on everyone else apart from themselves. I therefore really feel like it’s our role to protect them and if they have any of these symptoms – there’s that coughing, there’s that sudden weight loss – please push them to go to the GPS and ask “Is this something I need to be worried about?”

As new generations are coming along, there’s obviously a lot more education. There’s a lot more openness to speaking about issues. We have to change that misconception that there’s a reason why this has happened to me, or there’s a reason why God has had this happened to me. I don’t think it’s that. It’s not a punishment. It’s just life.

I think we need to change that and logically think, this has happened, I need to have it treated and I need to do something. I think that’s so important because, within the older generations, there’s the desire to keep it hush, to not talk about this and hope it will go away. But it doesn’t. I know it doesn’t and I don’t want other families to go through what we have gone through.