What’s next?

Thank you for being part of the breast cancer journey that we have walked with you over the past few years.

This blog has become a great resource for people who are experiencing their own cancer journeys, either themselves or with a loved one.

At the moment there are no plans to continue posts on this blog, but it will remain as a really useful resource.

We are currently concentrating our advocacy efforts at https://www.canceralliance.co.za/, where you can find our ‘Lets Talk About Cancer’ toolkit as well as Photovoice cancer patient stories and a wealth of other information.

Aluta Continua!

Nearing the end

We are nearing the end of the breast cancer journey that we have walked with you over the past few years. This blog has become a great resource for people who are experiencing their own cancer journeys, either themselves or with a loved one.

As we prepare the final posts, about palliative care and grieving, we found this link which we thought you would enjoy.

A woman named Heather McManamy passed away at age 36 from breast cancer. One of her last requests was that her husband Jeff McManamy share a letter she wrote to friends and family. It is, of course, heartbreaking. But it’s also funny and smart, and worth reading.

You can find it here.

The ride of a lifetime

riding-into-the-community-of-missionvaleCancervive, the dynamic project of People Living With Cancer, embarked on its colourful annual cancer awareness ride for 10 consecutive days during the month of September. Upon our return, we reflect on the impact of this internationally hailed education and awareness campaign that has now spanned 6 years.

Our entourage of survivors, supporters and crew, transported in generously sponsored motorbikes and vehicles received a spirited send-off from the SABC 3 Expresso Morning Show studios during our first ever live TV launch. This presented an opportunity for our organisation to reach a wider audience before engaging one-on-one on the road. We thereafter rode straight into the heart of this initiative, which is to provide a shoulder to lean on for anyone undergoing the cancer journey.

The first of our caring sessions took place in the wards of Red Cross War Memorial Hospital in Cape Town where all admitted children were treated to bedside visits and gifts from our sponsors, which were handed to them by our survivors and supporters. This same sentiment of sharing and caring characterised the rest of our journey as we gave of our time to patients living with cancer at Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth where we entertained and educated through song and dance on the hospital’s lawns and later at the newly-built Oncology Unit of Frere Hospital in East London with its doors open to us to engage with men and women who had travelled long distances from villages, townships and the immediate urban community to receive much-need cancer treatment.

The cancer journey is often lonesome and it was a privilege to have the opportunity to offer hugs and the simple words of encouragement, “You are not alone” to those who desperately long to hear them, not only at hospitals but also at various facilities such as the Missionvale Care Centre, in Adelaide and the homes of young cancer patients from the Little Fighters Cancer Trust, whom we visited.


Sad loss of a strong woman

A sad day for us – Tobeka Daki a HER2+ breast cancer survivor and our Face of the FTPL campaign for trastuzumab passed away earlier yesterday at her home in East London. Tobeka was not provided with the option for the treatment with trastuzumab at public hospital level. Although this treatment is available for the public sector at a negotiated price, many treatment centres are not able to provide this treatment due to the high price of the drug. It is currently only available at one public sector hospital in the country, thus exacerbating the issues around inequitable access to cancer treatment. We are in process of a submission to the Minister of Health in this regard at their request.
whatsapp-image-2016-09-28-at-11-00-29We are aware that there are many more similar stories such as Tobeka’s and we want you to share this with us. It is our mission to advocate and lobby in a responsible manner for equitable access to cancer treatment for all South Africans.
To all the Cancer Alliance and FTPL members that were able to support Tobeka and her family in her last days – THANK YOU. This is what partnerships are all about.

TOGETHER WE CAN – it is not beyond us.

Kindest regards
Nersan Govender, Linda Greeff, Liz Gwyther, Alana James, Elize Joubert, Adri Ludick, Salomé Meyer, Esme Pudule

8+1 = Portraits of Women by Tracey Derrick

sure  |  viva revival |  arrival 
surepositive, certain
revival renewal, recovery, resurgence
arrivalappearance, presence, homecoming

“In this new body of work, my working method has changed in two ways. When photographing myself I have exchanged a manual camera, and working in black and white, with a digital SLR camera photographing in colour and learning the computer skills associated with it. The other difference is when photographing women who have survived breast cancer I have used a medium format camera. This has changed my approach because I use a tripod, which slows down my movement, and so my own presence is obvious, and the photographs have become more staged.

Richard Avedon says, “…portraits are performance, and like any performance, in the balance of its effects it is good or bad, not natural or unnatural. The point is that you can’t get at the thing itself, the real nature of the sitter, by stripping away the surface. The surface is all you’ve got. You can only get beyond the surface by working with the surface. All that you can do is to manipulate that surface – gesture, costume, expression, radically and correctly.” (Richard Avedon Portraits, 2002).

Alicia Quinteros: Mother & Jeweller. Cape Town.
44 years old, diagnosed 15th September 2008. Lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation.

“We’re always working towards ourselves, changing, aging, growing, being born again.” 2009


Reaching For Recovery

Tracey Derrick - breast prosthesis - mastectomy - Advocates For Breast Cancer

TITLE: “Hang on? – come unstuck, detach, unfasten, free. Why reconstruct, whose ideals?” 2009

This particular photography by Tracey Derrick simply refused to fit into our graphic designer’s template – so it was decided the photograph would be most powerfully appreciated shown – purely – on its own.

How do you feel looking at this image?

How does it resonate with your own experience of mastectomy and the decision to opt for either reconstruction, prostheses or go completely breast-free?

Within the South African public health space, the bare minimum of breast cancer treatment options are very often not even managed – so how do our public health survivors navigate their post-mastectomy recovery where even one breast prosthesis costs R700?

Reach For Recovery is “a breast cancer support organisation with a unique focus on breast cancer support and one of the only organisations that provide a patient support service on a national basis. It is built on a simple yet universal principle: that of one woman who has experienced breast cancer herself giving freely of her time and experience to assist and support another woman with breast cancer.

Well-selected and trained volunteers, who each have experienced the breast cancer journey, render an emotional care and practical support programme to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and their families.

The Ditto Project aims “to help these women who come from very low income groups to feel confident again after the traumatic diagnoses and surgery through our Ditto Project… and aim to assist them with a silicone breast prosthesis.”

For SUPPORT: get in touch with Reach For Recovery by clicking here!

To VOLUNTEER, click here!

To help support The Ditto Project, click here!


1 in 9

advocates for breast cancer_blog_tracey derrick_self portrait.jpg
Original photo via  www.friskandfervour.tumblr.com 

Using self-portraiture within the entwined spaces of photojournalism and fine art, Tracey Derrick replaced her usual manual camera with a digital one to document her journey through breast cancer, capturing it with intense immediacy and richly hued lyricism — calling her body of work, 1 in 9, after the staggering breast cancer statistic:

Breast cancer now affects 1 woman in 9 during her lifetime in Europe. (UK Breast Awareness Campaign). The lifetime risk of developing breast cancer in South African women is 1 in 27 (Parkin, Whelan et al, 2002). If one factored out the low mortality age and the high incidence of HIV in South Africa, the statistic of 1 in 9 would be approximately correct and for this reason the average of 1 in 9 is accepted in South Africa as well.

Derrick says of her creative work prior to 1 in 9: “South Africa is a country with a wealth of cultures, and this is what my work is about. By seeing how we differ in our lifestyles, we can recognise how much we have in common.

I photograph ordinary people: refugees, sex workers, street children, displaced Himbas, farm workers and women in prison. In these portraits of their lives at work and play, they are given a voice, dignity and power. They are testimonies confirming the beauty and hope of individuals and their communities.”

Reflecting on 1 in 9, Derrick explains how she sought to explore and expose the impact that breast cancer has had on the lives, bodies, minds and hearts of 9 women. Positioning herself as the 9th woman, Derrick’s role as an active subject of her very own investigation allowed her to proactively experience and express the struggle women have — as ‘healthy’ and ‘sick’ — within the media which typically casts women as passive objects.

Using hair and breasts as metaphors for the representation of the female body in sickness and health, Derrick instead presents us with a reality which is hard to ignore. Join us every day this month as we unpack this bold artist’s body of evidence!



Basic banana body builder

basic-banana-body-builderIf your appetite is suppressed, if you need to build up muscle, if you need to put weight on, or if you are worried about insufficient protein.

4ozs (100g) plain tofu (silken tofu makes a smoother drink)

1 pink (500ml, generous 2 cups) soya milk

2 bananas

2 tablespoons organic maple syrup

1 tablespoon slippery elm powder

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Whizz together in a goblet blender or food processor until smooth and creamy

If you have difficult drinking from a glass, use a teaspoon and eat it from a small bowl like dessert, or add more soya milk to thin it and use a pretty straw.


Try any of these additions or flavour variations

2 tablespoons ground almonds

2 tablespoons cooked brown rice/millet/oats

Any fresh fruit – try mangoes for a real treat

Soaked or cooked dried fruits

1 teaspoon honey or concentrated apple juice

1 tablespoon organic, sugar-free preserves



Immune support soup

immune soup

10 fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced (if you can only get dried ones, then soak in warm water for 10 minutes before slicing)

10cm piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

4 big cloves of garlic, grated

1500ml water

Simmer together for 30 minutes then stir 6 teaspoons miso paste and 6 thinly sliced spring onions into the soup until miso melts (do not boil)

Serve hot.


Jumping the hurdles

hrdshpsWhat if my treatment is not available or my medical scheme turns me down or my treatment is not available at a public hospital?

For the last couple of weeks we have focused on the treatment aspect of your breast cancer journey.

Just as your diagnosis was a major hiccough in your life, you may again face a couple of issues before you actually can commence your prescribed treatment plan.

  • Your medical scheme may refuse to fund your treatment
  • Your medical scheme may ask for a co- payment
  • You do not belong to a medical scheme and do not know where to go
  • You do not know if the public sector will be able to provide the same treatment
  • You have been denied treatment

ALL of these are linked to your right to access healthcare that is enshrined in our South African Constitution (We discussed this here)

DO NOT DESPAIR – Campaigning for Cancer NPC, one of the dedicated cancer NPO’s can assist you in this aspect of your journey

Visit their webpage http://www.campaign4cancer.co.za/D_PASK.asp for a comprehensive guide of what to do – irrespective whether you are a patient in the public sector or the private sector.

If all else fails … make contact with us Advocates for Breast Cancer (email abcadvocacy@canceralliance.co.za) and we will redirect your specific issue to the appropriate authorities.