It is a sobering thought that about one in nine women in South Africa are likely to suffer breast cancer at some stage in their lives. It is no respecter of boundaries, and affects women of all races and classes.
But the good news is that breast cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, and definitely no longer a death sentence. Treatment includes chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, it involves either the removal of the lump or a complete mastectomy.
It can be a traumatic experience, especially if the treatment involves a mastectomy, but that is where Reach for Recovery comes in. Reach for Recovery is a support group for breast cancer patients, providing them with emotional and physical support. All the counsellors are trained breast cancer survivors, who are able to understand the feelings of the newly-diagnosed patient.
“Breast cancer is one of the better cancers,” said Beulah Jankelowitz, Chairperson of the Johannesburg branch of Reach for Recovery.
“It is treatable and it is also reasonably easy to detect. The important thing is not to ignore anything. If you find a lump, you must have it examined. Most breast lumps are not cancerous, but have it checked out anyway. Don’t just close your eyes and think it will go away. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better your chances of recovery.” She said that Reach for Recovery counsellors visit patients either at home or in hospital to talk to them and to provide them with support.
“We explain what is going to happen, and what they can expect. We also provide pretty floral bags for them to carry their drains, and very soft cushions to put under their arms so they can be more comfortable.
“While we can’t provide medical advice, we are also available to answer questions both during and after their treatment,” she said. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Reach for Recovery is once again the charity associated with the very popular Spar Women’s 10km Challenge and 5km Fun Run at the Wanderers on Sunday October 12.
A number of Reach for Recovery members will be taking part in the race. They are easily identified by their distinctive pink t-shirts and by their friendly smiles. They also stand out because, wherever they are, they are surrounded by laughter. They are very positive women who know all about the terror of being diagnosed with breast cancer, but they will also tell you how they came through it with the support of other women who had been there as well.
So put on those tekkies and start preparing to take the Challenge and help this very worthwhile group. Who knows, you may need their support someday. As an added incentive, the first 15 000 pre-entries will receive a free T-shirt, and the first 15 000 to finish will be given a medal and a goodie-bag. There are also many fabulous prizes, including a lucky draw for a brand new Nissan Micra.