Thank you

Every October, CBMH hosts a thank you party for the volunteers who give their time to see all the women who have had breast cancer surgery at CBMH.  Michelle Norris always organises treats for them and they get to enjoy massages and cup cakes. This year was no exception. PLWC and Reach for Recovery had stands.  A big thank you to the sponsors who included Pathcare, Morton and Partners and Well Woman Diagnostics.

Michelle Norris (CBMH), Carol van der Velde (Well Woman Diagnostics); Maryan (Morton&Partners)

I have decided to award a non-pink October prize and the inaugural prize has to go to Well Woman Diagnostics for their cup cakes in the colours of the Breast Course for Nurses.

I spoke about "Celebrities and their cancer stories" but the real celebrities of the day were sitting in the room: all the volunteers and the hospital personnel.

Thanks to all for an enjoyable morning!


October madness

October always brings it's opportunities for pink marketing.  I have seen a number of examples (eg, pink tyre caps) but surely the most bizarre are the pink drills manufactures by Baker Hughes: a company involved with drilling for oil.  They are involved with the controversial buisness of fracking.

They have painted the drills pink to "serve as a reminder of the importance of supporting research, treatment, screening and education to help find the cures for this disease which claims a life every 60 seconds.  I don't understand this at all. The tips of the drills are pink.  Who sees them when they are in the ground? How will pink ends to the drills educate people about breast cancer.  how will it find a cure?

The $100 000 donation to Susan G Kommen is generous but I fail to understand the purpose of painting drills pink.    A blog written in the money section of the Guardian has called Hughes Baker and others like them a "philanthropic hypocrites".  For further comment, check out last Sunday's City Press.

Basil Strathoulis, an Orthopaedic surgeon and photographer in Durban sent me a picture advertising "Set the Tatas free day."  "Free the tatas" is apparently an NPO.  What are they about?  On their Facebook page they claim to be"celebrating a woman's body and all it's beauty regardless of ethnicity, religion or creed".  There is no indication of anything they do other than post bizarre pictures.  Why are they an NPO?

There are many women who have had breast cancer and have had a mastectomy and reconstruction.  If there aim is to celebrate the beauty of all women, why are they assuming that all women need to wear a bra?  Are they excluding those who don't?

 The final bizarre campaign I will comment on was in the October version of "You" magazine.  Several celebrities had themselves photoshopped as being bald to "raise awareness".  Raise awareness of what? Any person who has had chemo will tell you that it is not what you look like that defines you but how you feel.  My husband wrote the following and sent it to the press ombudsman:
The "bald" fact is that the editorial and the front page and the article are "balderdash". Worse, it is ill-judged, ill-considered, insulting, inaccurate and insensitive. Cancer has a stigma, which cannot be removed by "shock" tactics, but by proper non-sensational education. Its not true that celebrities have an unambiguous influence or effect on raising awareness - they have their stories, but they are not the last word. Why is the only actual cancer survivor in the article portrayed with her natural head of hair in full focus, and not with a "photo-shopped" image, didn't the editors see an irony and honesty in that. Why try to glamourise a disease that is not pretty? The massive amount of hard work by support groups, professionals and survivors themselves is not boring, rather it is tired and lazy journalism that looks for cheap ways to find headlines, at the cost of truth. I am disgusted. I can give a hundred better headlines and story ideas that are not the demeaning approach this distasteful issue has come up with.
Apparently, You magazine have issued an apology.  I haven't heard any comment from CANSA who supported the story.

Please share your stories about some of the more bizarre campaigns being run this October.


Goodbye Dr Bell

This evening, I went to the leaving party for Dr Bell.  Peter Bell has been a radiologist at Morton and Partners for 30 years.  I have worked with him for the last 13 years and I will really miss him.

The radiographers put on their skirts and danced. 

I have worked closely with Peter as he does most of the interventional breast work at CBMH.  But that doesn't make him stand out from the crowd.  We are lucky enough to have many competent breast radiologists in in Cape Town from the different radiology practices.  What make Peter stand out is his modesty and his holistic approach to his patients.   Holism is a unique quality amongst radiologists.

However, his most defying characteristic is his kindness.  I am not sure who really said "It is easy to be clever but more important to be kind".  It has been attributed to different people but if Peter was less modest, I am sure he could have said it.

We will miss you.  Lucky Bedworth!


Women's Month celebration at Department of Environmental Affairs

I was asked to speak at a women's month programme presented by the Department of Environmental Affairs. This was at the Peter Stokey Hall at the V&A Waterfront. Ms Lucinda van den Heever led a dialogue on gender equality issues, as well as on women empowerment and gender equality. The question of "What is it to be a woman?" was explored.

Tiny Mdlalose spoke about countering arguments against "Push Her Down" or PHD syndrome. The general consensus was that big programmes do not work, rather, local and workplace support is needed. One suggestion was to have an open door policy for any concerns or queries.

I spoke about the importance of breast self examination, early detection and early referral. Included in this was how we are influenced by the role models around us. A questions and answers session followed where the audience could share their stories and concerns.

Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace prize this week.  When she started speaking out about education, she was a teenager in unimaginably poor circumstances.  She put female teenage education at the top of the international political agenda.

The conclusion of my talk was to say that professional woman in this country are in a privileged position.  There are many women less fortunate than ourselves who are not able to speak out.  It is up to all of us to fight for those who can't, and take responsibility for putting breast cancer management foremost on the agenda of the decision makers of society.


Southern African celebrities and their breast cancer stories

Some years ago, I gave a talk about celebrities who shared their stories about having cancer.  I gave some examples of those who I called heroes and those who I felt were zeroes.  I was asked to repeat the talk this week and changed it to include suitable role models in Southern Africa.

I chose to discuss two Southern African women who have recently shared their stories.  Their stories are very different.

The first is Zoleka Mandela, the grand daughter of Nelson Mandela.

She has written a book called "When Hope Whispers".

The first half of the book is about her battle with drug addiction.  The second half is about her journey with breast cancer.  "This book is Zoleka's story of healing and triumph...Zoleka is a living example of success in spite of overwhelming challenges; she is cancer free and enjoying sobriety"
Zoleka was treated in Johannesburg in private hospitals and was able to have a bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction and chemotherapy in the city she lives in.

For many women living in Southern Africa, that is not a reality.

Blandina on a billboard in Malawi
The second celebrity I talked about was the ex Miss Malawi: Blandina Khondowe.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer whilst feeding her son.  She had a breast lump for 18 months before it was diagnosed and had to travel to India to get radiotherapy as there are no radiotherapy facilities in Malawi. She returned to Malawi to complete her chemotherapy.  She has written a blog and shares some of her thoughts and observations.

In her blog, she notes that the women being treated for breast cancer in India are much older than those in her home country and she asks the question why more is not being done to provide cancer facilities in Malawi.

Since her diagnosis, she has become a breast cancer advocate in her country speaking out about the lack of facilities and campaigning for more equitable access to management.

Well done Blandina!

Have you been inspired by a celebrity's story? Who would you make your celebrity hero?


The re-launch of Reach for Recovery

October has come around again very quickly.  For Sr Lieske, Michelle Norris and I (representing the Breast Course for Nurses), the first event was the re-launch of Reach for Recovery.

Alison Ayres and Elsabe Schlechter acted as MCs.  The relaunch is not just about branding but is about reaffirming what Reach for Recovery offers people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The old logo has been replaced with a more modern logo designed by Greg Booysen from AAA in Cape Town.  The symbol represents the form of a breast and a flower and is gender neutral.  I really like it.  What do you think?

Ann Steyn and Salome Meyer

There were 3 guest speaker: Ann Steyn, Salome Meyer and Bruce Walsh. Anne Steyn (past president) spoke about  the history of RFR and Salome Meyer focused on the topic of advocacy and The Advocates for Breast Cancer (ABC). 

Bruce Walsh, gave an inspirational and motivational talk: "Winners or losers - it's your choice." This was about his life story after losing his legs in the 1998 Planet Hollywood bomb blast.  He reminded us all that in the face of adversity, it is up to us to decide whether we will be a winner or loser.

Alison Ayres with a punnet of pink mushrooms
Reach for Recovery is the only breast cancer support group (in RSA) that offers free breast prosthesis fitting.  This has been launched as The Ditto project.

There are many women who cannot afford a prosthesis and  a local mushroom farmer has agreed to contribute a proportion of funds raised from selling mushrooms during October.  They are packed in a pink punnet and are available from local supermarkets.

This is a really good example of pink cause related marketing.  Please support it.

Mr Mosig and his sons
At the end of the evening, Michelle Coe introduced Mr Mosig who will be leaving this weekend to climb Kilimanjaro in aid of awareness for breast cancer.  He was given a reach for recovery flag with the new logo to put on the summit.  Good luck to him


Well done to reach for Recovery on an excellent new logo and for organising a lovely evening!