Berlei strengthens its support for BCNA throughout October

Berlei and BCNA have had a special partnership for 17 years.

Berlei makes, packs and distributes free soft cup mastectomy bras through BCNA’s My Care Kits. But its support doesn’t stop there. Over the years, Berlei has also donated profits from various bras, including the rockstar inspired Chrissy Bra, which was designed in a snakeskin print as a legacy to Chrissy Amphlett.

This October and beyond, Berlei and BCNA are encouraging all Australians to support those affected by breast cancer. Berlei will also be showing its support by donating $10 from the sale of each bra in its Pink Bra collection to BCNA.

Berlei’s new campaign, which features theme music by beloved musical treasure Marcia Hines, has brought together eight people who are shining examples of the best attitudes for dealing with tough times, and for appreciating the simple joys in life. This issue of The Beacon introduces you to some of them – we hope you enjoy their stories. Keep an eye out for the Berlei campaign throughout October, which also features Thredbo Landslide Survivor Stuart Diver, Olympic Gold Medallist Raelene Boyle, AFLW Player Sophie Conway and Social Justice Advocate and BCNA Champion Aunty Pam. Together with Berlei, we encourage you to show your support for those close to your heart.

Find out more and support the campaign by visiting www.berlei.com.au/pink-bra-project

The incomparable Aunty Pam – tireless champion and friend to everyone

If there’s one person who personifies the idea of support, it’s Aunty Pam Pedersen. A Yorta Yorta Elder, Aunty Pam has worked tirelessly as a champion for the rights of Aboriginal people.

Aunty Pam is active in the Koori Court in Victoria, an Aboriginal community leader and an accomplished sportsperson. She is also a recipient of the Order of Australia Medal (OAM), awarded in 2019, and of the Australia Day Federal Award in 2005 and ‘Koorie Women Mean Business’ awards in 1997, 2002 and 2004. In 2016, she was inducted into the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll, the same year she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

When asked about her diagnosis, Aunty Pam describes herself as a very pragmatic person. She had two lumps removed from one breast and six weeks of radiotherapy.

‘Once I was diagnosed it became about what steps I had to follow to get well,’ she says.

Aunty Pam remembers she had only moved to Shepparton, in Victoria’s north east, a few months before she was diagnosed and had just bought some lovely furniture for her new home.

‘One of the first thoughts that went through my head was I won’t be able to enjoy my furniture. I’ll be organising my funeral instead,’ she says. ‘Thankfully that wasn’t the case and here I am five years later, I’m still cancer-free and still using that furniture!’

While Aunty Pam was having radiotherapy, she was also involved in organising the 2016 Sir Doug Nicholls AFL round. It is named in honour of her father and recognises and celebrates First Nations players and culture.

Having always been fit herself and a keen runner and swimmer, Aunty Pam continued to exercise throughout her breast cancer treatment and recovery.

‘Exercise has always been a huge part of my life. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer it helped me recover faster and feel stronger,’ she says.

Aunty Pam also continued to help others.

‘I am a positive person and like to help others,’ she says. ‘I was still involved with the Jesuit Social Services and helped out at a residential care unit where they look after Aboriginal children.’

Aunty Pam also continued as an Elder on the Koori Courts, supporting young people going through the justice system.

Now 78, Aunty Pam isn’t too keen about the idea of retirement.

‘This has been my life since school. I have worked, worked, worked. I have met wonderful people who have helped me a lot. They also come to me for my help. You help one another. There’s always someone who needs your help.’

Aunty Pam is concerned about the experience of Aboriginal women diagnosed with breast cancer in the health system.

‘I’m a confident and positive person, but our people are shy. This worries me when they are going to hospitals and need to get help. They feel shame. They need some time to get to know someone before they are comfortable sharing their story. Some don’t want to draw attention to themselves, so when they’re filling out forms they won’t say they have an Aboriginal background – they just leave that part blank. Even in their own communities, some women don’t like to say they have breast cancer because they fear rejection,’ she says.

Aunty Pam would like to see better representation of Aboriginal women on the television and whenever breast cancer is discussed.

‘It makes me cross that we see more non-Aboriginal people than our own people on television. We need to see our people talking about health issues like breast cancer, to tell them, make sure you have a mammogram, do it for yourself and your family.’

Aunty Pam suggests that if someone is nervous when they first learn they have breast cancer, the best thing for them to do is to find someone to talk to about it, whether it’s a family member, a health professional or an organisation like BCNA.

‘If I have a question, I ring BCNA to ask them for help and they put me in touch with the right person or organisation,’ she says.

Keep an eye out for Aunty Pam in the Berlei campaign, doing what she loves most – running and spending time at the lake near her home.

Thank you to the supporters!

Alongside Aunty Pam in the Berlei campaign are other women from across BCNA’s network who want to thank their biggest supporters; the people who have been there during the highs and, most importantly, during the lows.

NATALIE MATTHEWS, WA

Diagnosed in 2020, Natalie is 48 and has metastatic breast cancer. She’s a mum of two boys, and in her words, ‘They are why I am fighting so hard to stay around.’ Nat also has amazing support from a group of friends nicknamed the Ninjas, who work hard on helping her to create lasting memories. They also joined her in the Berlei campaign, which was a very memorable experience.

LAN CROWLEY, ACT 

A breast cancer diagnosis was a big shock for Lan at 43. ‘I felt I was too young, too fit and healthy, too Asian and no history of cancer in my family.’ Seven years on, she has become an advocate for better information and support for those diagnosed with the disease. ‘When something like this happens to you, it also happens to your families, your friends, your communities.’ Lan’s three teenage children are her greatest supporters.

KELLY McLAREN, NSW 

Kel was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 27 years old, and her dad was her biggest supporter. Her involvement in the Berlei campaign coincides with an important milestone, celebrating 10 years of survivorship. Kel is incredibly passionate about helping others who are diagnosed, and three years ago became a counsellor. ‘I love sharing my knowledge, compassion, words of encouragement and my survivorship with people.’

WENDY DEAN, QLD

First diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2017, Wendy was diagnosed again in 2019. She is a single mum with two teenage children, who are her greatest supporters along with her group of best girlfriends. ‘It wasn’t until the shoot for the campaign started that I realised I’d never properly articulated how much I appreciated and loved these amazing humans for what they did to support me throughout my journey. With this realisation and no script, I spoke my truth to each person with words of love and appreciation pouring from my heart. It was also therapeutic for all, as I feel these amazing women had undervalued what an important part they played in my recovery and how much they meant to me.’

Issue 89
Spring 2021