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Normani recalls feeling 'helpless' while supporting her mom through breast cancer

The singer opens up about trying to work after her mom, Andrea Hamilton, was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time.
The attends the Vanity Fair Oscar party on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California.
The attends the Vanity Fair Oscar party on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California.Arturo Holmes/FilmMagic

Normani knows what it feels like to have a family member be diagnosed with breast cancer.

When the singer was five years old, her mother, Andrea Hamilton, received her first diagnosis. After being cancer-free for 19 years, in 2020, Andrea found another lump. In an op-ed for Elle magazine, the singer recalled feeling “helpless” after her mom was diagnosed for a second time.

“I was in Los Angeles when I found out my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer again. My family was back in Houston. Three weeks earlier, when I was visiting my mom at home, she’d fallen into my arms expressing how scared she was,” Normani, who is an American Cancer Society ambassador, wrote. “She had a gut feeling about the results. I felt incredibly helpless because I wasn’t able to cure her.”

While Andrea is now in remission, Normani, 26, said she “struggled across the board” not knowing how to change her mom’s circumstances.

“At the same time, I was working on my debut album, and completing it seemed very unrealistic. Aside from my mom, I wasn’t concerned about anything, including music,” she wrote. “It was such a challenge to stay in my groove creatively while also allowing myself to feel everything that I needed to with my mom.”

Her mom promised that she would “still be here” once her album was released, which gave her a sense of purpose. “Every session and record that I did carried weight because my art was her escape during treatment,” she wrote. “I felt conflicted because on one hand, I needed to be home with my family, but on the other, she needed me to stay on track.”

The “Motivation” singer noted that there are two experiences people go through when someone is diagnosed with breast cancer: “The one who is enduring and the one who is doing their best to support.”

Normani described her mom as “incredibly independent and self-sufficient,” adding that “seeing her break down and not be able to function was really painful.” However, having her mother find her own lumps taught Normani the “importance of looking out for changes in your breasts and educated me on what mammograms were at an early age.”

According to the American Cancer Society, Black women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Black women are also more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage or younger age.

Additionally a 2021 report from American Society of Clinical Oncologists drops in cancer screenings, delays in care and other aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened the health disparities that Black women with breast cancer face.

Related: ‘Be the bridge’: Woman starts group to support other Black women with cancer

“I also encourage anyone who has a family member with cancer to see that your family talks to a doctor about genetic testing,” the former Fifth Harmony member wrote. “We have taken these measures as a family. Knowledge is power, so whatever you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask.”

Her experience has also taught her to “maximize every single moment and prioritize actually living instead of just existing.”

“I’ve had some of the most memorable moments of my life following my mother’s diagnoses,” she concluded. “I know for a fact that I have already experienced the scariest time in my life with the thought of having to exist here without my mom. The things that scared me before no longer do.”

As for her long awaited solo album, Normani spoke with TODAY in April and shared that she doesn’t plan on releasing it until she’s ready.

“I needed to figure out what I wanted to talk about and what was important to me,” Normani continued. “And I’ve had the time to do that. So this will really be an introduction to who I really am.”