Feel Good This project gives dignity to cancer survivors

This project gives dignity to cancer survivors

After breast cancer and a mastectomy, many survivors are conscious about their physical appearance. 

External breast prostheses may be the only option many have, especially if they cannot afford reconstructive surgery. 

Helping those in need

Mindful that wearing a prosthesis is a personal choice, and that many breast cancer patients in South Africa cannot even afford a bra, let alone a prosthesis, Reach for Recovery is helping survivors from low income groups feel confident again after their traumatic diagnoses and surgery.

The breast cancer support group’s Ditto Project assists women who have undergone mastectomies with free external silicone breast prostheses.

Reach for Recovery, an international body which has had a presence in this country since 1967, is appealing to South Africans to support the project, which was launched in 2011.

As close to the “real thing” as possible

The name is based on the dictionary meaning of “ditto” – “the same thing, again”, as survivors who use prostheses would want to have something as close to the real thing as possible.

“We have provided more than 6,500 women with prostheses.”

Reach for Recovery board chairperson Stephne Jacobs

“They are external silicone prostheses that are natural looking and fitted to each woman,” Reach for Recovery’s Stephne Jacobs says. 

“Having a mastectomy is emotionally traumatic and often takes place under severe stress. 

“Having a well-fitted breast prosthesis can have an immediate positive effect on self-confidence.”

A breast prosthesis costs about R880, but this can vary according to size and shape.

ALSO READ: Cape Town surgeon offers free surgery to breast cancer patients

A survivor’s experience

Mita Groenewald, 50, of Kuils River, was diagnosed with lobular carcinoma, the second most common type of breast cancer, in 2018. 

“I was surprised by how comfortable I was at the fitting for the prosthesis.”

Survivor Mita Groenewald

Mita is a mother of four, who underwent a single mastectomy at Tygerberg Hospital in July 2019.

“It [the prosthesis] is so comfortable and everyone thinks it’s my real breast – you cannot tell them apart.”

Apffelstaedt & Associates have endorsed the Ditto Project, and helped it with fundraising and creating awareness, for the past three years.

“I have seen first-hand how important it is to build a woman’s psychological confidence post-surgery, as this is the first step towards recovery.” says Dr Justus Apffelstaedt, a specialist surgeon with more than 30 years’ experience.

Apffelstaedt has dedicated his professional life to breast, thyroid and parathyroid health management, as well as focussing on soft-tissue tumours. 

“I donate my speaking fee for events to the project as well as contribute from a communications perspective, and hope to increase our financial contribution this year,” he says.

If you’d like to join or donate to the Ditto Project, click here.

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