These Staffordshire women are revealing all for breast cancer awareness. Find out how you can get involved with a cause very close to our hearts
Unfortunately we all know someone who has been affected by cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, 1 in 2 UK people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and, shockingly, breast cancer is said to affect 1 in 8 women in the UK.
In early 2016 my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember hearing the ‘c’ word and the fear that I felt was overwhelming so I can only imagine what my mum was feeling at the time. Within a few weeks my mum’s life had been turned upside down. She underwent surgery to remove the cancerous lump, followed by chemotherapy, radiotherapy and then hormone therapy. Every week she would be back and forth to the hospital or doctor’s surgery for appointments.
Luckily, my mum not only had the support of family and friends, but she also attended the ‘Pink Sisters’, a Staffordshire-based breast cancer support group, founded in 2015 by Jackie Mackenzie.
Having completed her own cancer treatment at the time, Jackie found there was little or no support for women once the NHS care stopped. She set about hosting a monthly meet-up where breast cancer patients and their friends and families could get-together to talk about what they are going through.
Jackie says: “For me personally, at the end of my cancer journey, I felt lost and alone despite having a fantastic support network in my friends and family and I knew that if I felt this way then there would be others who probably felt the same. I felt that I needed to talk and understand why I was feeling so down after I had just been told that they had removed the tumour and that I was cancer free! After talking to a couple of my ‘cancer buddies’ I knew that a support network was needed locally, hence the idea of Pink Sisters. The group has also supported me with the process of coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis and the daily worries and struggles that any cancer sufferer has.”
Support ranges from general chats to social events, health and beauty tips, charity fundraising and accompanying each other on hospital visits, and is open to anyone that has been or is affected by cancer.
Jackie says: “I have always said from the very beginning that we welcome anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis whether it is breast cancer or another cancer – cancer is cancer and we all have the same worries and need support.”
“The group has gone from strength to strength and the support does not stop when a meeting ends, it continues on a daily basis with the private Pink Sisters Facebook page which has 116 members. There is also a specific group for friends and family of the Pink Sisters members who also need support and advice, as loved ones also need to be able to talk about their own feelings without the additional concern of worrying their wives, mums, daughters, sisters etc.”
Jackie hopes to become a registered charity so that they can apply for funding to be able to reach a wider audience and fill the gap where support is no longer available. She dreams of opening a drop-in cafe where support and advice is more accessible for those that cannot travel to the groups or have access to social media.
To reach this goal she aims to raise a minimum of £5000 through a number of exciting initiatives. This year saw 15 members of the group get together to bare all for The Full Monty – a performance which mimicked the style of the iconic 90’s film. The ladies taking part ranged in age, from 25 to 60, and also included Hazel Wilson who has a severe sight impairment but still performed with the help of her guide dog , Tilly, who is also the groups mascot.
Jackie says: “The original idea was to do a couple of shows but due to the overwhelming support from the public, the September and October shows at Vale Park were a sell out. One of the attendees even said it was the best £10 they’d ever spent on a night out! So, we added an extra show in November which also sold out. Now we are planning two more shows in 2019!”
The sell-out events have also been a chance for local performers and singers to showcase their talents, with the Pink Sisters Full Monty performance being the finale, followed by a disco. The group also plans to run two further shows in 2019 scheduled for February and June.
The Pink Sisters Calendar has also been released for 2019, with the ladies bearing all in the tasteful style of the Calendar Girls film, and there are also plans for a Pink Sisters Autumn Ball next year.
The Pink Sisters are the talk of the town and so they should be! Looking back, I never really talked to my mum about her ordeal. I would ask how her treatment was going and I would help out when I could but I never once asked how she felt about having cancer and going through all the invasive treatment. But I think this was mainly down to the fact I was terrified myself and because I found it difficult to hold a conversation about it without getting upset, which I didn’t want to do in front on my mum, so instead I chose to bury my head.
My mum has now recovered and she has been given the all clear. The appointments have stopped but we still haven’t really had that conversation… How do you ask a cancer survivor how they feel about what they have battled when you cannot begin to understand it at all? And I wonder if this is the case for a lot of families that are affected. The Pink Sisters group has now been running for just over 3 years and is the lifeline many women and their family members need during treatment and beyond.
To find out how you can become a Pink Sister or to get involved and support these amazing, inspirational and strong women by donating auction or raffle prizes or sponsorship for any of the events contact Jackie on 07786 007315.
To book tickets or to purchase a calendar, you can visit the Pink Sisters Facebook page.