Bandera Rosa: The Fight Against Breast Cancer

Rosario Pérez · Fotos: Fran Montes

Bandera Rosa Algeciras, Breast Cancer Support: The Fight Against Breast Cancer

“In the fight against breast cancer, research and timely check-ups are essential”

The Bandera Rosa (“Pink Flag”) association has been offering support to those affected by breast cancer for three years and insists that there are not enough oncologists in the region.

Today, women who are faced with the diagnosis of breast cancer (a disease that mainly affects women, although there are a small percentage of men who develop it), find psychological, emotional and social support invaluable, and that goes far beyond receiving an informative talk or a guide with advice on how to better cope with treatments.

“When you get this kind of news from your doctor, it’s always a shock, and you could not imagine just how important it is to be able to speak to people who have gone through the same hardship; who understand you and accompany you on this path, and offer advice to make things as bearable as possible,” Anabel explains. She was diagnosed with breast cancer one and a half years ago and is currently a volunteer at Bandera Rosa.

Bandera Rosa Association Algeciras

When the current president Isabel Fernández was diagnosed, the Bandera Rosa did not exist, and she recalls feeling completely lost, alone, and not knowing how she was going to confront this process. However, she crossed paths with Ivana, Inma’s sister, who had already gone through it, and introduced her to Isabel Canto along the way (the association’s former president, who passed away in October 2018).

They helped one another and realized that they could do something to fill this void around the disease, its treatment and its aftermath and consequences– three years ago, to be exact – they created the Bandera Rosa along with Vice President, Carmen López.

Since then, the association has cared for around 300 patients, in addition to providing information to family, friends and people looking to collaborate with them. At their headquarters on Avenida Fuerzas Armadas (Algeciras), they offer a willing ear, help resolve doubts, organize workshops (the last of which was on healthy eating), and they make heart-shaped cushions that patients have been finding in their hospital rooms for a while now, upon returning from operations and recovering from anaesthesia.

Bandera Rosa Algeciras

“It is an anatomical cushion with specific measurements, made by our volunteers. It is for patients to place under their arms, as it alleviates the post-operative inflammation to a great extent,” they explain.

Along with the heart-shaped cushion, each patient returning from the operation room is provided with an information leaflet and a Bandera Rosa card, allowing them to decide on their own initiative whether they wish to get in touch with the association.

“Every person is different, and not everyone reacts to this process the same way. There are those who want more information from the first moment, and those who prefer to wait a while. From the beginning, it was clear to us that we were not going to approach anyone in the hospital.”

Another one of the Bandera Rosa’s initiatives is the “Put Music to Your Chemo” project, which takes place at the Day Hospital (Algeciras) and consists of the installation of MP3 players with relaxing music and disposable headphones in the armchairs while patients receive chemotherapy.

Breast Cancer Portraits

“In the new La Línea hospital, the chemo area is quieter and more relaxing for patients, but the Algeciras hospital ward is always full of people throughout the day – from 9:30am until 8pm, up to 40 people can receive treatment at various times, and there’s always a lot of ruckus. Fortunately, it’s not like it used to be years ago, the treatment times are getting shorter and shorter and some patients only need to spend an hour in the chair. But there are also patients who must stay much longer, so this music offers a way to escape and disconnect a little, especially when you don’t feel like talking to anyone,” Inma explains.

The Bandera Rosa association has also launched other types of projects, such as the Muñeca Solidaria (Solidarity Doll), to raise funds for activities and to collaborate with other groups such as the Metastatic Cancer Association.

“There is a small percentage of breast cancer that cannot be cured, and it is very important to support the research that goes into, one day, finding a cure or, at least a way for this type of cancer to become chronic.”

Bandera Rosa Algeciras

Another one of the Bandera Rosa objectives, which also makes donations for research against childhood cancer, is the public denunciation of the state of the oncology service in the region’s hospitals.

According to the association, there are not enough oncologists available (3 in the hospital Algeciras, who work half days, and 1 in La Línea); they are saturated with work, which affects both the time that can be dedicated to each patient and the application of protocol for revisions, which are being carried out with delays of up to two months.

“This is deplorable because we are talking about a disease that requires reviews on a timely basis – if they are necessary every three months, they should be undergone every three months, not every five. These delays cause a lot of anguish,” they explain. To alleviate the situation, two oncologists from Seville come only for revisions once a week, but Bandera Rosa insists: it is still insufficient.

Bandera Rosa Algeciras, Breast Cancer Support: The Fight Against Breast Cancer

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