January 09, 2020
It was at my annual medical review that the doctors first saw something underneath my arm. 
I Wasn’t Ready For How Cancer Treatment Changed My Sense Of Femininity
“Not sure about this,” they said. “We want you to go for a scan.”
Close to Christmas 2015, they called me in again. This time to give me the worst news they could possibly give me: “It’s cancer”. But not only was it cancer, it was triple negative breast cancer – one of the worst cancers you can get. 
The trouble with triple negative breast cancer is that it’s very aggressive, and it’s very fast growing. Recurrence rates are higher than other cancers and it used to be known as a death sentence. However, because we got there early and my cancer was looking super-aggressive, my doctors gave me the strongest treatment plan possible, always aiming for a cure.
I’m an analytical, rational person, and so I did a lot of research on how we die – what happens to your body, who survives and who doesn’t survive. And I decided I wasn’t going to let cancer just ‘happen’ to me. The most devastating side effect is one they don’t often tell you about: my treatment brought on chemically-induced early menopause...From the beginning, I was clear I wanted to keep on working. I was running a team spread across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I found it very difficult to show any kind of weakness being a woman in an IT environment, which is very male-dominated, and I was scared of being perceived as inadequate, or even worse that my illness would jeopardise my job. However, I found that people were softer, kinder and more considerate than I expected. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or to make special arrangements for me. I just wanted to be me and be known for what I could do and the value I can add, not for what I now couldn’t do.
Fortunately, I responded well to chemotherapy. I know many other triple negative patients don’t respond to the chemotherapy and unfortunately the outcome can be very uncertain. When you’re being treated, it’s a very difficult thing to think about – that some people survive it, and some people don’t. 
Physically, though, I struggled. My cancer treatment really knocked my confidence and stripped me of something I wasn’t expecting: my femininity.
As a woman, the way cancer treatment changed my body was devastating. Your skin noticeably goes thinner, making you age. Suddenly, you get a little bit more around your waist where’s you’ve never had it before (and you don’t understand why you can’t get rid of it so easily). Strangely, I struggled to wear high-heeled shoes. It turns out chemotherapy damages the nerves in your body causing weakness in muscles and this interferes with your ability to function normally and comfortably so it hurts wear high shoes.
I lost my hair, which made me very insecure. My long dark hair was, and is, one of my features, and it was really, really scary to lose it. Firstly, because you really don’t realise how much your hair keeps you warm until you don’t have it anymore, but also because it makes you extremely vulnerable – people immediately know you are very ill. When you’re sick, you want to be able to control it, but when there’s an outer sign of it, it’s hard to control people’s perception of you. Plus, I couldn’t get on with wigs at all. And even once the hair started growing back in that pixie style, people would tell me “I love your hair” (to which I always thought, “seriously?”). 
But the most devastating side effect is one they don’t often tell you about: my treatment brought on chemically-induced early menopause. I didn’t know it was going to happen, and then you really get slammed into it – for me around month two of chemotherapy. 
They kind of say it could happen, but they don’t actually tell you what’s going to happen. You have hot flashes like never before. You must dress in layers because you’ve got to get cool as fast as you possibly can. You must have ice cold water with you all the time or else you seriously can’t function. You get crawly skin and you can’t sleep. Then there’s the shock that you just do not function as a woman anymore.Before my cancer, I never got sick. I never appreciated what it was like to lose your health.And you know what? Nobody really tells you how to manage any of the symptoms and whether it’s the chemotherapy or the menopause you’re now going through. You have to go and say, “Well, listen, now I’ve got this problem, what’s that?” Cancer suddenly turned me from a young, strong, healthy woman straight into a… not-so-young woman.
And so, to others going through cancer, there are two things I want to tell you. 
First, listen to your body. It’s very stressful going through cancer treatment so it’s more important than ever to sleep well, eat well, walk, breathe deeply and things like that.
Second, be kind – both to yourself, and to those around you. Be present with your loved ones, your children, friends and colleagues. Before, when I was really busy with work, my little boy would come and chat to me, tell me stories, and the whole time I would be thinking about ten other things I had to do. I was with him, but I wasn’t present. Now, I put whatever I’m doing down and really listen to him. I am thankful for that as there is nothing better than the enthusiasm, positivity and sparkle of a child.Before my cancer, I never got sick. I never appreciated what it was like to lose your health. And there are a lot of people that do lose their health but are getting on with life, trying to work hard and keep their families together. My experience has taught me it’s incumbent on all of us to be mindful of other people around us. I realised that I have a lot of facets to myself: I’m not just ‘Annette, vice president of insights & data’ but I’m Annette a mother, Annette a vulnerable woman, Annette a friend. It’s important to remember everyone else around us has those facets to their life too.
Since overcoming triple negative breast cancer I’m feeling stronger, both mentally and physically. The hot flashes are not as frequent, but I do have to listen to my body and take it a little bit easy sometimes when I don’t sleep or get super stressed. But I am happy. 
I’m even back into my high heels.
Annette is supporting Cancer Research UK’s work to beat cancer right now. To find out more visit cruk.org
Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on ukpersonal@huffpost.comMore from HuffPost UK Personal My Friend Wasn’t There For Me During Breast Cancer. Here’s Why I’m Not Bitter When Cancer Threatened My Life, Social Media Gave Me The Strength To Fight
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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