Think Pink Bahrain founder Julie Sprakel gives us a breast cancer update
Time Out Bahrain staff
Julie Sprakel and the Think Pink Bahrain team should be proud. For a start, earlier this year, they were finally able to buy that digital MRI machine they had been persistently fundraising for. They also had an official letter from the Ministry of Health confirming the construction of the room for the machine at Salmaniya Medical Complex is in progress, and have even been introduced to the team of doctors – all leaders in their field with great knowledge of patient care – who will be supporting it. This, says Julie, ‘is concrete information that we are moving forward.
‘People forget that such a project has massive scope and is not as easy as installing. A thorough investigation has been made in terms of location with the hospital, support, air-conditioning, maintenance, access, along with appropriate staff.’
If this doesn’t sound like much to you, then let’s put it this way: throughout this project they have managed to raise a whopping BD499,900 and smashed any boundaries in Bahrain when it comes to breast cancer care. After all, this is no ordinary digital MRI machine – this is a breast specific diagnostic tool that will allow doctors to identify the cancer earlier and therefore save what could be thousands of lives.At the moment, throughout the GCC, women are being diagnosed ten to 15 years younger than in the West, according to research by the Qatar Foundation, says Julie, a former breast cancer sufferer herself. ‘This is why we endorse self-examination and awareness of your body changes, and seeking advice from a medical professional. The later stages could be down to being afraid or thinking that some risk factors don’t pertain to them.’
Despite this, in the past 11 years since Think Pink Bahrain was established, awareness in Bahrain and indeed the region has grown enormously. The incidence may have increased but that is partly due to more people seeking treatment thanks to these awareness initiatives, which have been driven by the public’s belief in charities like Think Pink Bahrain.
Plus, they do so much more than fundraising these days, as our home-grown charity also provides keynote addresses and fosters significant collaborations with professionals around the region. ‘This is a great accolade for the team and the country,’ says Julie. ‘Our persistence has paid off – we never gave up, despite how big the challenge.’
There is no sign of them slowing down, either, as they’re currently working on a new Research Fund after successfully piloting a project over the summer.
Julie proudly explains why: ‘This is a huge step as we are keen for evidence based research that can support our community.’
Meanwhile, they also run the Community Engagement Awards – most recently awarded to St. Christopher’s School and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Bahrain – which was established to engage the community and initiate breast cancer awareness within businesses and schools.
While October may be officially all about breast cancer awareness around the world, Julie is the first to emphasise that their work, and the awareness, is not just for one month in the year. ‘There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work done each year to get to where we are today,’ she says. ‘The joy comes, for me, when I am thanked by a school student for supporting their community. Or a husband ringing to say thank you for being on the other end of the phone.’ For more information: www.thinkpinkbahrain.com.
Well Woman screenings
Julie says they always encourage women to initiate Well Woman screenings at hospitals in Bahrain, such as these:
American Mission Hospital They offer a Well Woman Clinic at their main hospital in Hoora. Call 1724 8142.
King Hamad University Hospital Among many check-up packages is a thorough battery of tests catered towards women. Call 1744 4444 for the breast clinic.
Bahrain Defence Force Royal Medical Services Appointments should be made at the ‘Plastics Department’. Call 1776 6666.
London Breast Cancer Centre (Bahrain) For appointments, call 1740 4755.
National Mammogram Drive The Ministry of Health has allocated three health centres to provide free screenings, six days a week. In order to gain access you must be a citizen or resident of Bahrain; must be 40 years of age or older; should not have had any breast surgery or treatment for breast cancer; should not have had a mammogram within a year; should not be pregnant.
Breast Cancer Support Group On the first Wednesday of the month, this English-speaking group hosts a coffee morning. It’s open to all ladies who have had a breast cancer diagnosis, whether they’re newly diagnosed or years out of treatment. There are often guest speakers, too. Contact Joanne Lund (3956 7322). For more details, visit www.thinkpinkbahrain.com/contacts.
A few Think Pink events in October
Pink beach party Oct 1 Enjoy specially crafted pink beverages and a buffet, as a DJ blasts out the latest tunes, at Think Pink’s first party of the season at The Overlook. You will also get chance to take away creations and help raise funds. Starts 8pm. BD25 (non-members). The Ritz-Carlton Bahrain, Seef (1758 6499).
HOG Ride Oct 2 The Harley Davidson Owners Group (HOG’s) will ride again for breast cancer awareness. Bikers will leave the Budaiya-based shop by 8am. Anyone can attend and support. Budaiya Highway (1759 9006).
Golfing events Oct 8 It’s the 10th anniversary for Think Pink Bahrain golfing events at The Royal Golf Club where they’re hosting a Ladies Texas Scramble and the gent’s nine-hole night golf event. It’s open to all skill levels. 8am for ladies, 6pm for men. Royal Golf Club, Riffa (1715 0777).
Abseiling challenge Oct 21 Push yourself to the limits at this GIB abseiling event in support of Think Pink Bahrain, which will see people abseil 170-feet down the Al Dowali (GIB) building. To register, send an email with your pledge and the 50 highest pledges will get chance to partake. The minimum age is 21 and they insist you seek medical advice beforehand if necessary. Email GIB.email@example.com.