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Thriving and Vibing After Breast Cancer

There’s a lot of life to be lived after surviving cancer as the 2023 Power of Pink campaign raises a total of R438 912.00!

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Breast cancer survival and recovery are all about people. The medical teams for their expertise and innovation, as well as family who send meals, friends who offer a lift or a kind word and those who reach out in care through every hard-fought step of the journey, like the supportive team at Reach for Recovery (R4R).

This national non-profit organisation is focused on bringing awareness of breast cancer to all South African women, no matter their location or financial situation. One of their most life-affirming initiatives is the Ditto Project, which provides silicone breast forms free of charge to state hospital breast cancer survivors who have undergone a mastectomy.

“These are expertly manufactured, as well as colour and size-matched to each recipient,” notes Stephné Jacobs, the National Chairperson of Reach for Recovery.

Of the over 6,000 breast cancer patients supported each year by R4R through pre-op calls, help at clinic visits, information distribution and hospital care packages, more than 600 were fitted with a comfortable breast prosthesis between January and November 2023.

At over R3,000 per breast form, purchasing one of these is completely out of reach for most state hospital patients without medical aid.

To help pay for this significant prosthesis bill, Reach for Recovery completely relies on the annual October Power of Pink campaign created by the South African Mushroom Farmers’ Association (SAMFA) and supported in-store by Pick n Pay. R1 from every specially packed pink punnet of fresh mushrooms sold in PnP stores nationwide goes towards the Ditto Project.

As an absolute testament to the campaign, in 2023, the Power of Pink campaign raised a total of R438,912.00!

“‘Doing good is good business'” is at the heart of everything we do, and through the Power of Pink campaign, we are proud to contribute to raising awareness and funding for those battling breast cancer. With the support of our customers shopping the pink mushroom punnets, collectively we are helping to make a meaningful difference for breast cancer patients,” says Jacqui Peacock, Commercial Manager for Produce at Pick n Pay.

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Pick n Pay has supported the campaign since its inception in 2011. Part of the campaign’s success is that “many customers enjoy mushrooms, both for the taste and health benefits,” she notes. “We are also seeing mushrooms become more popular as a meat alternative for some customers.”

“It is always an honour for us to be part of uplifting South Africans, and in this case, underfunded breast cancer survivors,” says SAMFA Chairperson, Ross Richardson.

“We remain guided by the Beckman Institute at the City of Hope Cancer Centre in California which found that eating just 10g of mushrooms a day more than halved people’s risk of developing breast cancer. Practically speaking, that means eating just one fresh mushroom a day!”

“This research combined with research from the University of Kent and the University of Reading which found that uplifting your own health by eating good-for-you fresh mushrooms, vegetables and fruit, can indeed make you a happier and healthier person, motivates us to continue our support of R4R’s Ditto project.”

The recipients themselves find receiving Ditto Project silicone breast forms transformative!

Beatrice Mopp, an 80-year-old retired teacher from the Eastern Cape, was fitted for her breast form in November 2023.

After two years of arduous treatment, she had been placed on a waitlist for a prosthesis at a state hospital. “I waited for more than a year to no avail,” she laments. That’s when a family friend put her in touch with R4R. “The volunteer called me and arranged an appointment to meet me at home. The fitting of the prosthetic breast was such an exciting experience. My initial anxiety and apprehension were allayed by the calm and relaxed manner in which I was treated.

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“Words are inadequate when trying to express the elated feeling I experienced on receiving my prosthetic breast. To say I felt like a young woman again is putting it lightly. It gives me so much joy to be able to hug my grandchildren fully without flinching that they will feel my flat side. Gone was the hunched left shoulder as I am now balanced and confidently walk with my chest out. I remember smiling, in fact laughing, when I saw my image in the mirror. Truthfully, my confidence and dignity as a woman has been restored by getting the prosthesis.”

Elated is the emotion shared by many breast cancer survivors following their fitting. “After breast cancer treatment I was asking, ‘why me?’, not knowing the sun was going to shine again,” shares Gail Coombs from the Cape peninsula. “I was looking for help with a prosthesis. I searched Facebook and came across Reach for Recovery who immediately assisted and provided!  After the fitting, my sister and I went dress shopping with the prosthesis in its box. Oh my, it was the best day of my life. Later that month I looked absolutely stunning at my niece’s wedding, with so much confidence and two perfect boobs just like God made us. Everyone who knew my story was stunned. So much confidence; smiles and compliments. The prosthesis changed my life for sure. It fits perfectly, is soft and comfortable. I am wearing it with pride, being whole as a woman.”

On behalf of all recipients, Reach for Recovery, SAMFA and Pick n Pay want to thank all the South Africans who generously contributed in 2023 and whose ongoing support of the yearly Power of Pink campaign drives the success of R4R’s Ditto Project!

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