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A quest to help breast cancer patients

Updated Sunday, November 2nd 2008 at 00:00 GMT +3
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By Brenda Kageni

Right from the time that Elizabeth Ragui was in hospital undergoing treatment for breast cancer, she knew that she wanted to do something about encouraging someone else with the disease. She particularly wanted to let more people know about how early detection could lead to a cure.

Wamalwa, Ida Odinga and Esther Passaris warm up before participating in a past breast cancer charity run. Photo: File

She wanted to learn and share more and, in fact, began talking about breast cancer right from her hospital bed. But it was only after going through training by a breast cancer volunteer group, Reach for Recovery South Africa, that she was able to put a finger on what exactly she wanted to do.

Embracing a concept similar to theirs, she would help bridge the gap both in awareness and in providing psychological support to breast cancer patients.

"God was so gracious to me, my lump was discovered early and I could afford medication. But there are those women in the village and elsewhere, who have no books or newspapers to read and those victims who do not know where to turn to next when diagnosed. I wanted to take the survivors and walk with them to the end."

Her organisation, Reach to Recovery Kenya, is a breast cancer support group that gives psychological support to breast cancer patients by visiting them in hospitals during and after treatment. They not only offer emotional support, but also practical information on getting through.

One of these practical approaches is a goody bag, which Ragui believes could be more aptly called a comfort bag, that contains literature on chemotherapy, radiotherapy, exercises after surgery, a cushion, an exercise block, a simple breast form and a special bra.

A gap to bridge

Ragui shows the special bra for breast cancer survivors. When a woman wears the bra, she feels as if she has a breast. It is sold at a cost of Sh200. Photos: Ann Kamoni/Standard

"We realised that there is a gap to be bridged after mastectomy. One needs more information than just treatment, for example, on what exercises she can do while still in hospital to relieve the discomfort in the arm. The hand will not be the same. Nobody will ever tell you that."

Ragui says the bag is used to hold the wound drain, while the cushion helps eliminate the hollowness that one is likely to feel in the chest after the loss of a breast. The exercise block helps eradicate unease in the arm. The breast form made of washable fibre disguises the image and is soft enough to use even for a wounded side.

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