Time Out discovers how Bahrain charity Think Pink is helping to raise the awareness of breast cancer
Time Out Bahrain staff
October is all set to be breast cancer awareness month in Bahrain, with Think Pink launching its new ‘I Check’ campaign. Golf events at the Royal Golf Club, a HOG chapter motorcycle ride, a gala evening at the Gulf Hotel and many other activities will be used to highlight breast cancer awareness.
Julie Sprakel, the founding member of Think Pink, is a former sufferer herself, having detected a lump when she was in her early 20s, just after arriving in the UK to commence work as an intensive care nurse. ‘This was a life-changing experience that has influenced who I am today. At 23 you think you’re infallible and I was slow to react,’ she says.
Julie, originally from Australia, grew up spending much of her recreation time surfing at Sydney’s beaches and has never been afraid of a challenge. In fact, her fear of heights is something she uses to constantly challenge herself, and she regularly tries her hand at skydiving and tandem hang-gliding.
It is this participation that illustrates Julie’s involvement with the Think Pink campaign. Having relocated from the UK to Bahrain in 2003 to take up the role of intensive care nurse at the Awali Hospital, Julie’s career caring for people with serious illnesses, combined with her own harrowing cancer experience, has meant that her motivation remains high for both roles.
The opportunity arose some years ago to be involved in a fundraising event in Bahrain for breast cancer, which was the origin of Think Pink. With a team of dedicated and dynamic Bahrainis, lots of hard work and vision, this charity has grown, now enjoying a broad base and growing awareness in the local community. Julie explains: ‘When we first started out it was with events such as the golf day, ladies’ lunch and the gala event. Our efforts last year raised BD52,000, of which the majority was donated to the Cancer Society in Bahrain. The direction we have taken for 2009 is focused on awareness, which is beautifully represented with our I Check campaign, developed by LOWE Mena. It’s a touchy topic, but touchy is what we need. We need women to self examine their breasts, so they know when there is something abnormal. With any illness, prevention is always the best approach, and early detection and action is paramount.’
Julie’s most recent highlight was a slumber party organised by a group of 12-year-old girls from the Pakistani School who dressed in pink and arranged pedicures, raising BD120 for Think Pink. Julie adds: ‘This is as important as a platinum sponsor donating a few thousand dinars, in fact it’s priceless. To be able to influence younger generations so they adapt to doing monthly checks is one of our primary goals.’
The pink ribbon is related to breast cancer worldwide, and was started by Estee Lauder, the perfume and skincare icon in the 1980s, after her own ordeal with breast cancer. The colour pink is universal, adopted by breast cancer foundations the world over.
Although the colour pink is usually associated with females, the universality of the disease means breast cancer affects men who also have breast tissue, the area which usually houses the cancer. The last WHO (World Health Organisation) report stated that last year 1.2 million people were diagnosed with breast cancer and two per cent of these were men. Sadly, because men don’t self examine, the mortality rate is high.
Julie advises: ‘There are many different things to look for when self examining; rashes, lumps, dimples, even changes to the shape of the breast, but remember 90 per cent of lumps are not cancer. So if you are concerned about something being different, go straight to your doctor, be pro active and ask for help.’
Think Pink have four platinum sponsors this year. The Royal Golf Club is putting on a ladies’ golf day, a men’s night golf event and an art exhibition. The Royal Irish College of Surgeons is sponsoring a Bahraini nurse, Sister Shazalan, who is doing her masters in oncology, and upon completion will be specialising in breast cancer. Julie adds: ‘She will be the first oncologist nurse in Bahrain, and we hope many will follow in her footsteps.’ In addition to these great initiatives, Gulf Air will have 3,000 cabin and flight crew wearing the pink ribbons in a huge show of support for Think Pink’s October, with Gulf Brands as a major sponsor of the gala evening. There are also fitness days at World Beat Fitness, Bodyline and EZ Fit, raising funds for the charity, and a Studio Ceramics open day on October 17. Also check out the HOG chapter/Think Pink Bahrain motorcycle ride, leaving from the Harley Davidson office in Budaiya on October 9. Think Pink (39 076 717; firstname.lastname@example.org, www.thinkpinkbahrain.com).