Having been a breast cancer patient at St John’s in Livingston, and supported by a local charity to help her through it, West Lothian resident Hazel Orr was saddened to learn that the charity was closing.
“I didn’t want women, and men, going through what I did without the help I had benefited from,” says Hazel. So along with her sister Mandy, mother Sylvia and daughter Holly, in April this year she set up “Breast Friends and Family,” a charity to help support patients and their families facing breast cancer diagnosis and treatment at St John’s.
“I was diagnosed in June 2015 and spent the next year going through surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and then surgery again just before Christmas 2016. Throughout my treatment and recovery I was lucky enough to have the support of Bosom Buds, a local charity - support that I didn’t even know I needed! Sadly this charity has now closed, hence we have started Breast Friends and Family.”
Breast Friends and Family support the 150 or so patients (mostly women) who go through treatment for breast cancer at St Johns every year.
“We want to provide patients with the little things that the NHS are not in a position to, things that make a difference to each individual and to how they feel about themselves,” explains Hazel. “We also want to be in a position to do something for the families of those diagnosed with breast cancer, to help the children and husbands or wives deal with what their family is going through.”
Working closely with the oncology nurses, they have developed a “goody bag” to supply to every patient. It includes mastectomy bras for those facing breast surgery, headscarfs for those losing their hair due to chemotherapy, cooling towels and creams, a support cushion (“this was a huge emotional as well as practical support to me, as when I saw the cushions on other women’s beds I knew they were going through exactly the same thing”) and plan to include other items as and when funding allows.
“We would love to be able eventually to offer the services that the other charity provided, including eyebrow tattoos for women who lose all their hair, special exercise classes and so on. But we’re starting from scratch with the funding, and are focussing on the goody bags for now.”
Constantly raising funds is hard work, and they will need ongoing support. So far, Breast Friends and Family have benefited from friends and family raising funds through antique fairs, exercise classes and selling donated wigs, and they have organised a number of events coming up in the next few months.
“We are dedicated to raising funds to keep the charity in a financial position to enable us to help breast cancer patients and their families.”
Consider making Breast Friends and Family your charity to support this Christmas.
If you can help staff stalls, hold events of your own, donate items for raffles and so on, please contact them.
Follow “Breast Friends and Family” on Facebook
First published in Konect November 2018
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer