Back in 1972, my mother discovered she had breast cancer through a self-initiated mammogram. Her diagnosis came as a shock to our family. My mother is a healthy award-winning surgical nurse with no history of breast cancer in the family. She even breast fed all four of her children – how could this happen?
At that time my friends and I were in our 40s, and we realised that even though we were in the “vulnerable” age for breast cancer, we were very limited in our knowledge and understanding of the disease. It was during this time that I started to research more seriously about breast cancer and discovered, with the help of some doctor friends, that early detection of breast cancer could save lives.
My friends and I realised that there seemed to be a lack of advocacy and awareness around breast cancer and the push for early detection, despite the rising concerns due to our ageing population. I also felt that breast cancer is not just a medical issue, but also a societal one. This is because in Singapore, with a mainly dual-income population, women form a large percentage of the working community. Studies have shown that in many cases, the earlier breast cancer is discovered, the faster the recovery journey, and the longer the life expectancy. Women can then resume their daily lives and family life suffers minimal disruption. These were main driving factors that encouraged my friends and I to establish BCF in 1997.
BCF is in the first instance an awareness builder reaching out to the entire community, including men, so they can encourage their female colleagues and loved ones to go for regular screenings.
We support our survivors, caregivers and their families through a wide range of counselling, education, empowerment and ‘Healing Through The Arts’ activities. These activities provide those diagnosed with, or survivors of breast cancer a network through which they can receive emotional support and practical help throughout their journey.
BCF also conducts targeted talks and events with healthcare and corporate partners to increase awareness and advocate early detection among the wider community. We believe that educating the general public about breast cancer also provides support to those affected and will help them overcome their fears.
[Yes.] We have noticed that people are becoming more comfortable sharing and talk about breast cancer. This has resulted to many successful collaborations [among organisations] which provided very tangible ways of tackling [the disease]. For one, the collaboration between us and major healthcare providers such as the Health Promotion Board, religious organisations, and the corporate community enabled us to widen our outreach.
Today, there are more screening centres offering mammograms and other breast cancer-related screening mechanisms at very affordable rates.
Speaking of collaborations, can you share with us why you chose to collaborate with other organisations related to fashion such as Club 21, Takashimaya, and Jean Yip?
Previously, we found out that the carnival component and stage performances were key attractions. This year’s Pink Ribbon Walk will again feature a carnival in addition to the walk, and for the first time, a concert. Over the years, we have seen more families, including men and young people, participating in the walk to show their support the cause for their female loved ones and colleagues.
It is our hope that the spread of awareness will be wider as a result of the expanded participant base, and that more organisations will come forward to co-sponsor awareness events with BCF.
Last but not the least, what message would you like to relate not just to the readers but also to everyone who has yet to know more about breast cancer?
[I, as well as every member of BCF, hope that] every woman will hear and heed our call for regular screening. [We also hope that every woman] will step up to empower herself and others towards the overall eradication of breast cancer as a life-threatening disease through early detection. [This is] a hopeful message as showcased by our many wonderful, happy and healthy survivors.