When Liz Hurley's grandmother was diagnosed with the cancer that would eventually kill her, she had known of the lump in her breast for quite sometime.
Why had she not seen a doctor sooner? She was too embarrassed, too scared, says Hurley.
But it's this story that compelled the actress and businesswoman to become a passionate supporter of Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign for 20 years.
Although breast cancer is still killing the women we love, she has noticed the fear that once surrounded the disease is gradually being replaced by hope and inspiration.
But she doesn't feel her work as ambassador for the campaign is complete yet, as she has spoken to researchers who think that a cure could be found.
Hurley spoke to HuffPost UK Lifestyle ahead of International Women's Day about how her relationships with grandmother and good friend Evelyn Lauder have inspired her to keep working to raise awareness.
What does your work as a breast cancer ambassador involve?
Each October, I travel around the world raising funds and awareness for the The BCA Campaign. Two research scientists at the Royal Marsden hospital in the UK share a grant in my name. I have also lit many beautiful landmarks around the world pink, as part of The BCA Campaign.
In fact, we are in the Guinness Book of Records for illuminating the most number of landmarks for a cause within 24 hours in 2010. The last building we lit to clinch this record was the Empire State Building - Evelyn and I lit this together.
I will never forget how emotional we felt as we did this. Evelyn was an amazing woman and an inspiration to us all. I am passionately dedicated to The BCA Campaign, and will continue to spread the word about early dedication and the importance of breast health globally.
Your grandmother's death galvanised you to get involved - what was she like as a woman?
My grandmother was a school teacher and was extremely energetic and lots of fun. When she discovered the lump in her breast she was too embarrassed and scared to tell anyone. Who knows, had she done so, maybe she would have survived…
There seems to be a lot more awareness now about redefining femininity and beauty in the aftermath of breast cancer - what impact do you think the diseases has on a woman, in terms of rethinking beauty?
Women who survive breast cancer are first and foremost thankful to be alive. While great medical strides have indeed been made in this area, we must never forget that breast cancer still kills so many women.
It is very, very tough to undergo a mastectomy, physically and emotionally. I have spoken to so many women who have been through this and they all suffered greatly. There is a very moving book called Chemosabe Cancer Warrior by Alana Somerville, a breast cancer survivor, who documents her journey through treatment and discusses how her attitude towards her physical appearance changed throughout the process.
If there is a message you can get out there to women about awareness regarding breast cancer, what would it be?
We’re all scared of breast cancer — it now represents one in four of all cancer cases in women, globally. That’s why it’s so important to get the message out and tell every woman to see their doctors regularly, and get a mammogram annually if over the age of 40.
I know many women who discovered their own tumours by self examination. Examine your breasts regularly, and report any changes to your physician.
I want people around the world to know that the fear that once surrounded breast cancer is being replaced by hope and inspiration, as we all continue to support one another and take action in the fight against the disease.
There really is so much we can learn and gain from talking to each other and from sharing personal stories of strength and support to inspire and help others. I encourage everyone who has been touched by breast cancer to visit www.BCAcampaign.com and hear the incredible stories that have been shared from the UK and around the world, and hopefully be inspired to share their own.
Breast cancer is something so many women and men go through together and hearing each other’s stories and sharing them makes us all stronger, together.
How has the face of breast cancer changed since you took on the campaign 20 years ago?
The Pink Ribbon is now a symbol of hope for women all over the world but when Evelyn Lauder co-created it with then SELF editor-in-chief Alexandra Penney in 1992, breast cancer was still only whispered about. The same year, Evelyn founded The Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness (BCA) Campaign.
Now, thanks to Evelyn and other phenomenal crusaders, we shout about breast cancer from the roof tops and try to educate as many people as possible about this disease.
We have moved from increasing awareness to taking action in the fight against breast cancer, and touched millions of people around the world through The BCA Campaign, in addition to raising $58 million dollars to fund breast cancer research, education and medical services.
Evelyn was an amazing woman and her work for breast cancer will never be forgotten. She was a wonderful friend to me for over 17 years, and I miss her terribly.
Hurley at a breast cancer awareness event in Paris
Why have you been involved with the campaign for so long?
I have spoken to many breast cancer researchers and they say that a cure could be found if they had more funding. Evelyn Lauder realised that in addition to founding The BCA Campaign that we needed to make an impact in research.
In 1993 she founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a nonprofit organisation which has raised over half a billion dollars for research and currently funds more than 220 scientists. Through both organisations we have accomplished so much, but we still have a way to go and we all need to work together to get there.
We persevere today with the same dedication and commitment that Evelyn had in 1992, showing people all over the world that with open communication, donations and support, we are stronger together in the fight to defeat breast cancer, and we can save lives.
HuffPost UK Lifestyle are running a month-long campaign during March called All Women Everywhere, which champions women from all walks of life. If you would like to contribute, please email us .