British pop star Rita Ora has detailed the panic attacks she suffered as a teen following her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis as she urges women to make sure they get themselves checked.
The singer’s mother Vera, 56 was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease in 2005, when Ora was just 15 years of age. After watching her mother battle breast cancer through chemotherapy and radiation, Ora said she spent much of her 20s suffering crippling panic attacks and PTSD.
“I don’t know if it’s in my head, but it can be a case of a little heartburn and I am like, ‘What is that,’” Ora told The Sun.
“My mum battled it (cancer) twice, and I had a lot of different emotions. I felt a lot of responsibility to step up and become a strong teenager. I wanted to protect my mother,” Ora said.
Ora, who is set to be a judge on Channel Seven’s reimagined The Voice next year, said she credits therapy for helping her get through the fear of developing the disease.
“They’re such a hard experience to explain,” she said.
“Growing up when I was younger I didn’t know what a panic attack was. I don’t think a lot of teenagers realise what they are. You can’t breathe, your chest feels tight, you lose your vision — you go into a wormhole and this comes from personal experiences.
“I found music is a healer and I think I’ve gone through a lot to make sure I don’t get to that phase of feeling like I can’t breathe again.
“Aromatherapy, therapy in general, exercise, meditation and getting checked, giving yourself the peace of mind — these all help me stay calm now.”
The 30-year-old said she has had herself tested for the breast cancer gene and says she’s lucky she doesn’t have it. By speaking out she hopes to appeal to women to get themselves tested, with testing in her UK home having dropped by 80 per cent due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The backlog of cancer treatment is crazy. And some people are too afraid to go to hospital, which is totally understandable, but you have to go and get checked,” she said.
“I still check myself regularly. Genetically, there was no history of breast cancer in my family before my mother, but she still got it.
“There are loads of tutorials online which I have used. You have to be aware of your body.”