Covid 19 brought out the best in South Africans!

As astonishing as new mushrooms blooming into life have been the generous kindness of the South African public to breast cancer survivors in 2020!

Together a record amount for breast cancer survivors was raised!

Despite a pandemic, lockdowns and financial hardships in the year of Covid-19, South Africans have very generously contributed a record R692 784 for Reach for Recovery’s Ditto Project – the highest amount raised since the project’s inception in 2010.

The money comes from the Power of Pink campaign, which is the sale of fresh mushrooms in pink punnets at Pick n Pay stores every October.

R1 from each punnet goes to Reach for Recovery, which provides silicone breast prostheses to breast cancer survivors who cannot afford breast reconstruction after a mastectomy.

Photography by Jeremy Glyn for SAMFA/RGC in February 2021
SAMFA Power of Pink cheque handover 2021.

Since 2011, a total of 7 298 silicone prostheses, costing more than R5,2 million, have been given to women who could not afford them, with the Power of Pink campaign contributing 96 percent of the total project spend.

“One of the many tragedies of breast cancer is that so many women live without breasts after a mastectomy. Their basic financial constraints do not give them the wherewithal to acquire prostheses that will enable them to live more dignified and happier lives,” explains South African Mushroom Farmers’ Association (SAMFA) chairperson, Ross Richardson. “Most South African’s don’t even know it is an issue, filled with heartbreak for many breast cancer survivors.”

Fresh mushrooms have been linked to the fight against breast cancer since 2010, when the Beckman Institute at the City of Hope Cancer Centre in California found that eating just 10g of mushrooms a day more than halved the risk of developing breast cancer.

“The generosity of South Africans in supporting this cause is astonishing,” says Stephné Jacobs, national chairperson of Reach for Recovery, the non-profit organisation that runs the Ditto Project to provide free silicone prostheses to breast cancer survivors. “We aim to provide emotional and practical support to every breast cancer patient who needs it,” she notes.

Much like Tennessee Williams’ Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, these patients have “always depended on the kindness of strangers,” and 2020 has proved how truly kind and generous South Africans are by nature.

“Every woman should have access to this essential support service,” says Stephné. “It is free of charge, and anyone can refer a patient for support.”

Lockdowns and Covid-19 transmission protocols have temporarily suspended Reach for Recovery’s prostheses fitting services as “cancer patients and survivors are too vulnerable to be put into situations where they could be at risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus”, but the proceeds from the 2020 Power of Pink campaign have been set aside for use as soon as regulations allow. As a stop-gap solution during the pandemic, to aid with recovery, dignity and self-image, breast cancer patients have been given beaded softies until they can be fitted with their own silicone prostheses.

After all, as author Robin Hobb writes, “There are few things so tender as a (wo)man’s dignity.”

Photography by Jeremy Glyn for SAMFA/RGC in February 2021
SAMFA Power of Pink cheque handover 2021.

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