Breast cancer support: surviving with dignity

2017-10-12 06:00
=Estelle Botha (left) chairperson of Reach for Recovery Uitenhage and Jacky Sharp, a Reach for Recovery volunteer.                                   Photo:HEILIE COMBRINCK

=Estelle Botha (left) chairperson of Reach for Recovery Uitenhage and Jacky Sharp, a Reach for Recovery volunteer. Photo:HEILIE COMBRINCK

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There is a local praiseworthy volunteer-driven service that people are ignorant about, until the day they so desperately need their support. This service is the Reach for Recovery breast cancer support group.

Tania Naude, a breast cancer survivor said, “When Reach for Recovery volunteers visited me in hospital, they brought calm to me and the knowledge that I was not alone. With their help I did not only survive, I survived with dignity.”

All volunteers dealing with breast cancer patients, have to be breast cancer survivors, as they understand the emotional and psychological needs of the patient. These volunteers are trained according to Reach for Recovery International standards. Volunteers assisting with fund-raising or logistics need not to be breast cancer survivors.

“We as volunteers deal with the emotional aspects and see that breast cancer patients are fitted with prosthesis after a mastectomy. They still are women and need to feel like a woman,” said Estelle Botha, chairlady of Reach for Recovery Uitenhage.

“When diagnosed with breast cancer the first emotional aspect to deal with is shock. Secondly we deal with the patient’s denial. They often think and say, no, it can’t be me, this is not happening to me. Eventually it becomes a spiritual issue, where they start blaming God and bargaining with God.

“We know this path and therefore we are there for support. When they come to the point where they actually accept having breast cancer, that is when the process starts of a mastectomy and the way forward.”

Prosthesis to indigent women

Reach for Recovery also provide a prosthesis service to indigent women who cannot afford reconstruction post a mastectomy. This silicone prosthesis help to restore the self-image and confidence after the traumatic breast cancer surgery.

The Reach for Recovery Uitenhage branch was established in 2007 by the late Maureen Deysel. Estelle Botha took over from Deysel and was elected as chairlady, a position she has held for the past 10 years. She later was joined by volunteers Cathy Godwin, Rachel Brinkhuis, Sally Seekoei and Rose Kayi.

Currently the local Reach for Recovery has only eight volunteers of whom three ladies (Estelle Botha, Rachel Brinkhuis & Eleanor van Niekerk) are trained to deal with breast cancer patients. They have to service a large area stretching as far as Jansenville, Steytlerville and Graaff Reinet.

“We over the years battled to keep the office going but with the help from the local community and donations from the Rotary Anns and Uitenhage Bowling Club, we were able to do the work that we do best,” said Estelle Botha, chairlady of Reach for Recovery Uitenhage.

“We urgently need more volunteers. It is a huge sacrifice and women should be passionate to do this, to offer to give without being asked or obliged.

“Also, this is a voluntary service, there is no salary or payment. It is a humanitarian service,” said Botha.

According to her the main aim of fundraising efforts is to cover the costs of prosthesis, drainage bags, softies and operational costs like fuel and administrative expenditures. They currently are in need of a laptop.

Bra Drive

Volunteer Jacky Sharp started with a Reach for Recovery Bra Drive a few years ago. This contributed immensely in providing bra’s to fit silicone prosthesis which were donated to women who could not afford it.

“It is very important to wear the right bra. There should be no wiring, it should have broad shoulder straps and it should be a cross-your-heart bra,” said Jacky Sharp, a Reach for Recovery volunteer.

Reach for Recovery receives no state funding. It is registered as a Public Benefit Organisation and as a Non-profit Organisation.

  • To find out more about Reach for Recovery Uitenhage, call Estelle Botha on 083 650 6200.

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