Weekend of caring helps hundreds
“Thank-you for making possible our dream of feeling complete once again. I don’t have have words to pay you for all you have done for the women who are passing through this terrible disease. But thank-you and your good hearts. May God take care of and protect you always.”
These words are from just one of the more than 550 women in Mexico who travelled to the annual Cancer de Mama clinic held in La Penita (north of Puerto Vallarta) during the first weekend of February.
The clinic fits the women, all breast cancer survivors from impoverished circumstances, with new or gently used bras, prostheses, wigs, hats, clothing and makeup.
Women with little or no access to doctors post-surgery can also visit physicians at the clinic for treatment and education on lymphoedema (a type of chronic swelling common after breast cancer treatment).
This is the fourth year Yvonne Hogenes has attended the clinic as a volunteer and business sponsor.
Hogenes owns Malary’s Fashion Network in Cloverdale and is the founder of TAB Custom Fitted Bras and Firma Energywear.
About five years ago, the local businesswoman was collecting bras for women aided by Servants Anonymous Society (SAS) of Surrey. She sits on the board of the organization, which helps women escape homelessness, sexual exploitation, addiction and trafficking, and reintegrate into society.
She was approached by a woman who heard of her campaign and asked if Hogenes could donate any extra bras to the Cancer de Mama clinic.
[Photo: Cloverdale businesswoman Yvonne Hogenes, right, poses with a clinic attendee and two other volunteers]
Hogenes decided TAB Custom Fitted Bras could do better than that.
“We decided as a company to donate 500 to 600 bras a year,” she said. And usually pink to the delight of the recipients.
She also continues to collect unwanted, gently used bras at Malary’s (5755 176 St.) throughout the year.
Cancer de Mama helps them survive breast cancer with comfort and dignity.
Women with breast cancer in Mexico face a stigma that often results in them being outcast from their family, Hogenes explained.
Part workshop, part clinic, the aim is to provide women with a free range of services, from counselling and physical therapy to wigs, scarves, hats, and properly-fitted bras and prosthetics.
They also have a chance to get their hair styled and make-up done.
She said the clinic has grown to include more than 250 volunteers – nurses, doctors, translators, sewers, fitters – who work from dawn to dusk over the course of the three-day clinic.
“But you’re so rejuvenated. You come out so fulfilled,” she said.
[Photo: a visitor tries on a hat at the clinic]
The demand is so great that this year an additional Cancer de Mama clinic has been added in March in Guadalajara.
Local women have been trained to run the clinic – “as people who live there, they’re going to be able to do even more,” Hogenes said.
For more details, visit cancerdemamaclinic.com.