Thursday, 27 October 2011

International Pink Ribbon Day for Breast Cancer Awareness

October 24 was International Pink Ribbon Day, a major focus point in Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

We've already looked at an upcoming film that has one perspective as to how pink ribbon day came about, and we've discovered the Zonta Breast Cancer Care Cushions. Today I want to share the work of a fantastic Canberra based group providing a simple but extraordinarily useful service.

Bosom Buddies

BB was commenced in 1995 and today they have over 300 members. Today BB has a fairly strong model and vision and it does a couple of main things:

  • provides support for a woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, helping as much as needed through hospital and doctor visits and post operative care.
  • Awareness raising in the community and advocating to improve treatment
  • The BB Fellowship provides support funds for individual and community based projects that are focused on breast cancer.
At my October club meeting we were fortunate to have Marilyn Brookes, a BB member and organiser, visit and tell us about her experiences and the services provided by BB.

Women, such as Marilyn, are not medical officers or counsellors - they are volunteers who have survived breast cancer and are willing to share their knowledge and provide a shoulder to lean on when needed. They are different from family and friends in that they bring their own story with breast cancer and sometimes are the only experienced support a woman has.

The ways the BB women show practical support include:
  • hospital visits - catching up with women whilst they are under treatment, answering questions, getting supplies.
  • running a help phone line - they frequently have women who have just had their diagnosis and are still in shock and scared and want to talk immediately. 
  • disseminate information - they give out flyers and run a website - and they have a nifty little "check yourself" door hanger card. They have materials and contacts for diet, exercise, wigs, hats etc.
  • run workshops several months a year
  • run an informal drop in at a coffee shop
  • release a newsletter
  • undertake advocacy (e.g. increasing the govt allowances for breast prothestics)
  • donate money to other groups also related to breast cancer issues (e.g. unlike in other states, ACT breast cancer nurses are not supported by the McGrath Foundation)
  • and do lots of networking - like coming to our breakfast - and mixing with many other groups

Finally, Marilyn left us with some local facts and hints

  • 14,000 women per year are diagnosised with breast cancer in Australia, and the number is increasing. The increase is driven by the large volume of baby boomers moving into the higher risk age groups and also by improved screen techniques and women taking more notice.
  • The biggest risk factors are if you are female, and over 50 years old. 
  • 50% of lumps are found by the women themselves 
  • 9 / 10 lumps found are not breast cancer.
  • In Canberra, the survival rate is 93% - as the medical profession are increasing their knowledge of the different types of breast cancer, they are also improving the variety and effectiveness of treatments.
Marilyn also passed on all the positive feedback she had received about our Zonta Breast Cancer Care Cushions - lovely to get feedback from someone who is directly in touch with the cushion users.

Finally we were left with the direction to "give our breasts TLC: touch, look and check"

go and check out their website - and then go and check out your boobs

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