Buddies with bosoms at their heart

OCTOBER is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with one in nine women in the ACT being diagnosed with the disease by the age of 85, early detection is something we all need to be aware of, says president of Bosom Buddies Shelley Atkins.

Shelley Atkins… “I’ve been there, I’ve had a diagnosis and it can be quite a shock.”

“The rate of diagnosis in Canberra is slightly higher than the national average, possibly because we are more breast aware and use self-examination and mammograms preventatively,” she says.

“Our survival rate is higher because of this too, and so continuing to raise awareness of early detection is a huge part of what we do.”

Shelley says Bosom Buddies is hosting a celebration of life, with music, dancing and entertainment at the Southern Cross Yacht Club on October 23, both for awareness and to bring people together.

The group is also relaunching its waterproof shower tags, says Shelley, which can be hung in the shower to remind and encourage women to check their breasts regularly, to know what their “normal” is and to take note of any changes.

“A part of what we do is organise social meet-ups, tours of the National Gallery, talks and fundraisers,” Shelley says.

“But we also provide information bags, including flyers, a cushion and a discreet handmade fabric bag to conceal bags of bodily fluids in hospital. We make around 600 of these a year, which are fully approved by the hospital, and the amount is increasing.

“We are also able to organise financial support in special cases for someone wanting a wig or a bra.”

Bosom Buddies is an all-local, mainly volunteer-run support group for women diagnosed with breast cancer, and the small team of four say they’re dedicated to supporting women who have had a breast-cancer diagnosis.

“We’ve been around for 22 years, and started out as a buddy group for a local woman, Shirley Fitzgerald, organised by her friends,” says Stephanie Norris, secretary of the management committee.

“They soon realised there were other women in a similar situation that perhaps didn’t have a group of supportive friends and Bosom Buddies grew from there.

“I’ve been there, I’ve had a diagnosis and it can be quite a shock. You don’t really know what to do and who to talk to.

“You can get all the medical advice in the world, and you do get tunnelled into GPs, oncologists and surgeons and all the rest, but there’s nothing like good old-fashioned friendly advice from someone who knows.

“What we offer is emotional support, like suggestions of what to take to hospital, how you and your family can cope and how to ask for help. We don’t counsel. It’s just woman to woman. We’re buddies.”

Shelley says the group can also support the husband, family, or friends of the person dealing with cancer, can do hospital visits, and are happy to refer people to other resources.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel or mimic what other organisations are doing and we know we can say, there’s this resource there that you can access,” she says.

“We’re also about to start having a presence at the drop-in clinic at Calvary, which may simply be an invite to our social events or to make a cup of tea for someone who needs it.”

Bosom Buddies offers free membership in the first year while undergoing treatment, then it costs $30 a year or $50 for three.

“Our goal is to raise awareness, support women and fundraise,” says Shelley.

“All of us in the group have a connection to breast cancer, whether it was us or a close family member. We know what it’s like.”

Bosom Buddies’ Annual Australian Breast Cancer Day Celebration, Monday October 23 from 6.30pm at the Southern Cross Yacht Club, Yarralumla. Tickets $45 members, $50 non-members. Call 0406 376500 or email admin@bosombuddies.org.au

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private.