Thank you Lisa Levy

During the course of last week I received an email from Lisa Levy informing me that she would be celebrating her birthday and wanted to collect funding for the Breast Course for Nurses instead of receiving gifts for herself! It is so special to receive news like this especially in the whirlwind that is the end of the year!

The Breast Course for Nurses relies on sponsorship to continue to grow and educate nurses within South Africa. Next year the Breast Course for Nurses will be expanding to countries within Africa.

Lisa Levy and her friends at Tashas

On Thursday I joined Lisa and all of her friends at Tasha's restaurant at the V&A Waterfront. She had envelopes with the breast cancer ribbon attached to each ready for the donations. The amount we received from these generous donations was far more than expected! 

Thank you to Lisa and all of your generous friends, we really appreciate what you have done for our organisation and for the many nurses that will benefit from doing the course made possible by the money that you have raised!


Soft toys resembling pathogens

I was walking along the corridor in theatre last week and noticed a cot with a cuddly toy left abandoned outside the a theatre.  The toy was well used: a familiar item of comfort for the child who was undergoing an ophthalmological procedure.

Soft toys are often given to patients to comfort them whilst they are in hospital.  A teddy bear with "Good Luck" or "Get well soon" can be purchased easily.  I was horrified to discover that cuddly toys nowadays are designed to resemble a pathogen.

The one that caught my eye was an ebola soft toy.  Yes, you can purchase a toy that resembles the ebola virus.  It is one of a series of microbial toys made by the Giant Company.

Logging onto their website to see what the product looked like, I noticed a dropdown box.  It gave various disease options and I chose "breast cancer".  Sure enough, they make a cuddly toy that resembles a breast cancer cell.  It can be turned inside out and so be "cured".

The 'breast cancer" cell
The "cured" breast cancer

I also came across a "sexy ebola suit" that was being promoted as a Halloween outfit.  How sad is that?  I have never had to dress in a protective outfit but even being scrubbed in a hot theatre can get very hot.  I should imagine working in a full suit is claustrophobic and massively unpleasant.

Personally, I think the toys and dressing up costumes are belittling and the height of bad taste.  Let me know if you agree or if you have actually been tempted to seek out one of the products.


Port Elizabeth Breast course for Nurses: Day 2

Back in the "Friendly City", we started with lectures and moved to a discussion about community programmes.  The session was run by Salome Meyer (Advocate for Breast Cancer or ABC) and Estelle Botha from Reach for Recovery.  The ideas discussed were the role ABC play, the importance of breast cancer NGOs and the importance of knowing who is around locally.

Then the second part of the discussion considered possible community strategies.  Key points were:

1. Campaigns need not be expensive.
2. There are many existing community organisations: use them.  An example came from Anne Gudgeon who spoke at Gatesville Mosque last weekend.  During the session, the Iman spoke.  He reminded the audience that each individual is responsible for looking after their health.
3. When women present to the clinic with problems/for investigations, use the opportunity to examine their breasts.
4. When running breast awareness campaigns, bring up other issues eg Prostate cancer.

I am hoping that there will be some imaginative and successful campaigns run by the participants.

Michelle Norris being bandaged
Sue Serebro ran the last session: lymphoedema management.  Lymphoedema therapists are very few and far between in the Eastern Cape.  She taught the students basic massage techniques and demonstrated bandaging techniques.  She demonstrated the various compression garments and had all the participants doing exercises and self massage.
Sue demonstrating bandaging on Anne Gudgeon

A huge thank you to the faculty: Sr Lieske, Michelle Norris, Dr Anne Gudgeon, Dr Linda Whitelock-Jones, Salome MeyerEstelle Botha and Sue Serebro.
The course is dependent on sponsorship.  We are sincerely grateful to our sponsors.  The course was run in the Netcare Education Centre in Post Elizabeth.  The food and flights were sponsored by Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital and we are grateful to Chris Tilney for his generous support. Greenacres Hospital supplied the transport and helped with logistics.    Karen from Baard brought the biopsy needles we used and Dr Linda Whitelock-Jones lent us her expertise and US machine.  We are grateful to Care Cross and DigIt for ongoing and much welcomed support.


Port Elizabeth breast course: day 1

Sr Nonnie (St Francis Hospice)
The Breast Course for Nurses has returned to Port Elizabeth for the second part of the course.  It has been well attended with a mixture of nurses from the public and private sector. Dr Anne Gudgeon, Sr Lieske and Michelle Norris and I travelled for Cape Town.

On the first day, Sr Nonnie (St Francis Hospice) and Dr Linda Whitelock-Jones (breast surgeon) joined us from Port Elizabeth.

Sr Nonnie ran the palliative care session.  She divided the participants into 4 groups and gave them a case to discuss.  After discussing the cases, each group gave their feedback and contributed to a general discussion.  There were 2 points that were emphasised: all patients need to be respected and told the truth.  A family/community cannot begin to support an individual who is dying if there is a barrier to discussion.
Sr Lieske helping Eunice with a biopsy
In the afternoon, Anne and I spent time teaching various biopsy techniques.  All the participants had a chance to practise the procedures themselves.  Linda Whitelock-Jones ran the station on radiological investigations.  The day ended with a discussion about how the manage locally advanced wounds.

It will be a wonderful day when we don't need to have the last session.

Anne Gudgeon teaching about the pitfalls of FNA