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Breast Cancer Support Group (BCSG)

In the year 2000, six breast cancer survivors got together over coffee to discuss what they were going through. At that time, Johor did not have a support group – a concept only found in Kuala Lumpur, but all the six ladies wanted was someone to talk to. Over time, the meetings got more frequent and started including more people, eventually forming a group of breast cancer survivors. To date, the Breast Cancer Support Group (BCSG), run completely by volunteers, has a total of 425 members. The NGO commemorated its 15th anniversary in March 2019.

Two important rooms in their premises at Taman Kebun Teh are the Wellness Room and the P&B (Prosthetics and Bra) Room. Patients will first sit in the Wellness Room to pour their hearts out about their concerns and anxieties about breast cancer. All volunteers assigned to the room are retired women with nursing backgrounds, experienced in caring for patients emotionally and mentally. Survivors will also participate to reassure new patients that they are not alone.

A woman naturally values her beauty and, sometimes, her physical attributes play a part in building her self-esteem. Having understood this, the P&B Room was set up as an integral part of this support group. Women undergoing chemotherapy are given free wigs and are able to buy special bras and prosthetics at a rate subsidised by BCSG JB. The room has a large mirror to remind women of their beauty and to take note of their postures. Fittings for bra and prosthetics usually take two to three hours. Volunteers in the room patiently sit through with the patients throughout their fitting sessions; a service based on the understanding of how the process can be daunting for a patient.

Though anyone may join the group as members and supporters, BCSG said they are not a ‘social club’. Members must contribute with time and service. Mainly conducted and run by supporters, BCSG has different classes every day of the week that range from choir, craft, yoga, line dancing, English class, Zumba, and many more to fill up the time and encourage camaraderie amongst members.

“We are blessed to be alive, and we would like to thank the kind people around us for their support. We want to give hope to fellow breast cancer patients,” said Doris Wee, founder of BCSG.

BCSG aims to raise more public awareness of breast cancer through roadshows and exhibitions. They give talks and demonstrations on breast self-examination. The best day to self-examine is on the seventh day of your menstrual cycle and should be done every month. At Hospital Sultan Ismail, BCSG is given space every Wednesday for patients to come and ask any questions about breast cancer.

Mammograms are currently not easily available to the public as they are not affordable and there is a shortage of working machines. The BCSG is working towards getting the rates of mammogram screenings subsidized to make it easier for people to be examined.