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.
Cancervive travelled 2400km across the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa, from 08 – 18 September through the varying landscapes of lush vegetation, unkempt wildness and stretches of desolation, to raise awareness about cancer.
From the farming communities of Caledon, Riviersonderend, Swellendam and Riversdale through the glorious Garden Route all the way to rural schools and factories, the message “Early detection saves lives” was shared by survivors who have walked the cancer journey and bear testament to this statement, with their own bruised bodies and yet determined spirits. The power of their personal words of survival brought hope to those who often feel isolated in communities where the stigma of living with this dread disease is prevalent. The opportunity to interact with the survivors made room for many to ask gnawing questions that they otherwise would not have had the courage to ask openly or known who to ask.
The vibrant youth at schools were receptive to our entertaining performers but also paid keen attention to the delivery of relatable messages from survivors diagnosed with cancer as young as the ages of 7 and 13 as well as in their 20’s, as they demonstrated the importance of the message of survival due to early detection, which may at times mean living without some important parts of one’s body. From the packed school halls and where none were big enough to accommodate the crowds, the school fields, there was no space too inadequate for us not to reach out.
Young and old cancer survivors and supporters once again left a memorable trail of a pink, purple and blue rainbow of hope in rural and urban communities. Through testimonials from survivors as well as soothing sessions of song and dance, this diverse group of dedicated foot soldiers delicately presented messages of early detection, survival and celebrating life while living with cancer.
Cancervive, 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.
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.
We 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.
CANCER ALLIANCE EXCO:
Nersan Govender, Linda Greeff, Liz Gwyther, Alana James, Elize Joubert, Adri Ludick, Salomé Meyer, Esme Pudule
“Nusha Loubser” ~ Photographed by Tracey Derrick
50 years old, | Hairdresser | Vredenberg
Diagnosed: 1st November 2005 – mastectomy, chemotherapy and tamoxifen for five years.
“The worst was losing my hair and being so tired, yet we believe all things are possible like the Word of God reminds us in the Bible.”
“Cassiem Rayghanah” ~ by Tracey Derrick
50 years old | Liaison specialist | Heideveld
Diagnosed: 5th August 2005 – lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation & tamoxifen for five years.
Second diagnosis: 15th June 2009 – cancer lesion in breastbone. Radiation, chemotherapy and femara estrogen suppression. Liaison specialist. Heideveld.
Member of amaBele Belles breast cancer dragon boat rowing team!
“We like to think of ourselves as a floating support group because we’re fighting a communal battle with dignity and commitment.” 2009
From Tracey’s 1 in 9 seminar paper, continued from yesterday’s post:
“I agree with his [Richard Avedon] sentiments but it is also about directing the photographic situation and the challenge is still to try and capture a moment, the communication between myself – the photographer – and the subject. As Kuhn says, “The face stands in for the person’s whole being, the subject’s essential humanity is seen as inhabiting the face, the ‘window of the soul’.” (1994:37).
Photographs function in constructing and encouraging particular ways of viewing and telling about the world. The photographs of breast cancer survivors – Alicia and Suzanne (above), Cassiem and Siona (not shown) – are woman that I have met during my breast cancer process. My projects have always developed over a period of time, influenced by the people that I have met along the way and interacted with. These photographs reflect in part my relationship with them.”
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SURVIVAL OF 1 IN 9
sure | viva revival | arrival
sure – positive, certain
revival – renewal, recovery, resurgence
arrival – appearance, 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