While studying for her grade 11 exams, schoolgirl Jenna Skews absent-mindedly played with a necklace she was wearing. This is when she first felt a worrying lump in her breast. A swift diagnosis revealed she had breast cancer – and a life-saving mastectomy followed.
“Cancer changed the way I see the world, the way I look at myself, who I am,” Jenna admits today. “The disease doesn’t discriminate. It can come out of nowhere – for anyone. But there is hope..”
On the face of it, Jenna’s story is one of triumph. But there is a deeper message: Young girls should routinely check for breast cancer. One in 28 women in South Africa will be affected by breast cancer in their lives, but according to the Breast Health Foundation there is a 90% survival rate if it is detected early and the correct treatment is followed.
It’s vital that women of all ages – especially young women, who might not consider themselves at risk – know about early detection and the importance of breast self-examination.
To spread this life-saving message of awareness, ER24 Air Angels has branded all its helicopters bright pink. These emergency helicopters will visit schools across Gauteng during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The campaign kicks off with a fundraiser luncheon at Casalinga in Muldersdrift on 5 October. The luncheon will include guest speakers such as Professor Carol Ann Ben, South Africa’s leading breast surgeon and Lillian Dube, cancer survivor and actress.
This novel initiative is a collaboration between ER24, Air Angels Air Ambulance Services (the CSI division of Flightshare – ER24’s aeronautical partner), the Breast Health Foundation, Novartis and Oneplan Health Insurance.
At each activation, anyone whose life has been touched by cancer are invited to sign their name or the name of their loved one on the pink helicopters, signifying their support of this important message of early detection.
“ER24 has a visible presence throughout South Africa, specifically in Gauteng where this campaign is taking place, and leveraging that visibility with pink – a colour that is now synonymous with breast cancer awareness – is the least we can do to spread the message. We are proud to partner with Air Angels on this campaign to raise as much awareness as possible,” says ER24’s communications manager, Werner Vermaak.
“Early intervention saves lives,” says Flightshare co-founder & Director Anton van den Heever. “We’re proud to bring this message to young women at schools throughout Gauteng – and to anybody who looks up and sees a pink helicopter in the month of October.”