Raising Breast Cancer Awareness in Bali
“Everyone has a mother. No woman should be robbed of the chance of being with her children and grandchildren because of breast cancer.” – Gaye Warren Quite a number of villagers in Bali believe a cancer victim will bring bad luck to the village and those that do seek medical help from a doctor are often ostracized by their village. Some women believe that breast cancer is contagious and will not assist a family member with daily bathing, for example. We spoke with Gaye Warren, founder of the Bali Pink Ribbon foundation and a breast cancer survivor.
“Everyone has a mother. No woman should be robbed of the chance of being with her children and grandchildren because of breast cancer.” – Gaye Warren
Quite a number of villagers in Bali believe a cancer victim will bring bad luck to the village and those that do seek medical help from a doctor are often ostracized by their village. Some women believe that breast cancer is contagious and will not assist a family member with daily bathing, for example. We spoke with Gaye Warren, founder of the Bali Pink Ribbon foundation and a breast cancer survivor.
What is the idea behind Bali Pink Ribbon?
I am a breast cancer survivor and count myself lucky to have survived the disease and felt I would like to give something back, especially to Indonesia, where my late husband, family and I have spent many happy years. Following my treatment for breast cancer in Singapore and Indonesia and on arrival in Bali from Jakarta with my recently retired husband, it became my fervent wish to develop a breast cancer awareness campaign, as there was nothing in place at the time, to promote early detection to save lives, working with the advice and valued support of the medical profession in Bali.
When and how was Bali Pink Ribbon founded?
Soon after my arrival in Bali from Jakarta, I joined the Bali International Women’s Association and, along with two friends (Indonesian and Scottish), persuaded the Chairlady of BIWA to start a fundraising campaign for breast cancer awareness in Bali. From that small seed a Bali Pink Ribbon Walk was developed, based on my experiences of the annual U.K. Pink Ribbon Walks in which I participated when back home in England.
The Bali Pink Ribbon Walk was established in 2009 and is now in its sixth year, and Bali Pink Ribbon became a registered Foundation in April 2013. The Pink Ribbon Walk has become the main fundraiser for our breast cancer awareness campaign and is becoming more customized to accommodate Balinese traditions. It has been very encouraging that BPR events have been increasingly covered by the media and that local sponsors have become more conscious and sympathetic to supporting the campaign.
What are the goals of the Foundation?
We promote breast cancer awareness and provide support to all those affected by breast cancer. BPR aims to bring the important message of pro active self breast examination and going to a hospital for annual breast screening from the age of 35. BPR opened Bali’s first Breast Cancer Support Centre in October 2013 offering a friendly face, the chance to meet and talk to other survivors, provide free illustrated health educational literature, printed in Indonesian and English, sourced and with permission from the Victoria Cancer Council in Australia, Singapore Breast Cancer Foundation and Breast Cancer Care U.K.
We provide twice monthly breast cancer awareness seminars either at our Support Centre, or in the work place, to all sectors of the community at their request. We also provide a ‘train the trainer program’ of breast cancer survivors to encourage confidence and awareness for those women who are too frightened to go to the hospital. We are often asked to meet Balinese patients and their husbands, who are unsure of going to the hospital on their own, at our Centre. This is a very rewarding experience for our Pink Team members.
In addition, BPR provides breast screening roadshows to the remoter parts of Bali. This includes a breast awareness seminar followed by manual and mobile USG screening by local and visiting overseas volunteer doctors and nurses. The Balinese community enjoys this as a ‘day out with their friends’.
Our team works with the local media to promote breast cancer awareness programs, our fundraising events and encourage sponsorship in any form from the local business community.
How does the Foundation achieve its goals?
With the help and support of:
A) The Pink Team – our unpaid volunteers who run our fundraising events and free of charge Support Group Evenings, which take place every month at our Centre offering yoga, tai chi and light fitness classes followed by jewelry making, a healthy cookery demonstration and a light meal. The majority of women who attend these evenings are from the outer islands, visiting Bali for their cancer treatment, staying at Government boarding houses. BPR provides free transport to our Centre.
B) The local business community and women’s organizations, especially the Hard Rock Hotel who include us in their
‘Pinktober‘ events, their annual November Rock’N Run and Valentine’s Day event; The Stones Hotel Christmas and Artshow events; ITDC Nusa Dua, where the annual Bali Pink Ribbon Walk is held; Surfer Girl who assists us at our bi annual round the island roadshows by providing a Surfer Girl bus and at least two volunteer members of their staff to work with the BPR team, financial donations from their Surfer Girl shops ‘change for change’ collection boxes; Kawasaki support us by inviting us to join with their annual Bazaars; our overseas sponsors, local volunteer doctors, and many more.
What are the challenges in raising awareness about breast cancer and how do you overcome them?
The main challenge is the lack of education about breast cancer and its appropriate treatments. 70% of patients turn up at the hospital already in stage 3 or 4 of cancer when it is often too late to help them. It is not uncommon for local Balinese women to go to the hospital having tried 5 different types of alternative medicine options before coming to see our Medical Advisor and Professor of Oncology, Prof. Tjakra Manuaba. Alternative medicine is widely advertised in the media and is easily affordable but is ineffective. Fear of coming to the hospital and fear of treatment, inaccessibility due to the remoteness of the village location, and most often a lack of funds to pay for treatment stop women seeking proper medical care.
What are your future goals?
We want to provide training for 2 Radiologists in Australia as well as a bus equipped with a mobile USG screening unit for breast screening around the island. We also want to provide a bus to transport patients to and from the hospital for screening and treatment. Finally, we hope to establish a special Breast Cancer clinic.!
Bali Pink Ribbon has so far put on two free screening roadshows with the third planned for October 2014. The foundation aims to screen up to 100 women a day.
25th October 2014 – Nusa Dua 10 am (The Pink Ribbon Walk follows from 2 pm)
27th October 2014 – Ubud
28th October 2014 – Klungkung
To learn more about Bali Pink Ribbon contact:
Pink Ribbon House
Yayasan Pita Merah Muda Bali
Jalan Dewi Sri IV No. 1, Kuta
Phone: 835 2299
Our sincere condolences go to Gaye whose beloved husband Chris passed away since this interview took place. He was much loved by his family and many friends, and was a great supporter of Gaye’s work in Pink Ribbon.
Rest in peace our dear friend.
Alistair & Barbara Speirs