In the fight against breast cancer, there is no greater resource than the survivors.

By Matthew Greenberg

That simple observation explains much of what myself and a group of young professionals experienced during a recent trip with JDC Entwine to visit the Women’s Health Empowerment Program (WHEP), a JDC program, in partnership with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

One of the main reasons for our visit was to volunteer at the Race for the Cure in Sarajevo.  The Race for the Cure is a global series of fitness events organized by the Komen Foundation and its partners to raise funds and breast cancer awareness.  Before the Race, our group spoke with Nela Hasic, the Regional Director of WHEP in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, about the goals of the Race for the Cure in Sarajevo.  One thing Nela said stood out for me in particular: the Race for the Cure is a chance for women from all over Bosnia to come together and support one another. The sheer number of pink t-shirts, which are reserved specifically for breast cancer survivors, on the day of the event was a visual reminder of how many women are affected by breast cancer but continue to live their lives in spite of their illness.  I realized that our role as volunteers was really to help provide that forum for breast cancer survivors to help one another celebrate life and honor those who have lost their battle with this disease.

I saw a similar dynamic at play when our group traveled to Mostar to participate in an arts and crafts workshop organized by one of WHEP’s local partner organizations.  There, we helped a group of breast cancer survivors make heart-shaped pillows that women who have just gone through surgery can put under their arms to alleviate their discomfort.  It’s an idea that could only come from someone with personal experience of the recipient’s needs.  The session was a great example of what survivors can do with space and resources to implement their ideas about how to help others.

I joined the trip to Sarajevo to honor the memory of a dear friend that died from breast cancer earlier this year.  Following her diagnosis and throughout her treatment, she blogged about her experience and how she managed to stay positive and keep moving forward.  I know it was a message that inspired the women suffering from breast cancer that read her posts.  I have been thinking a lot lately about how I can best contribute to the fight against breast cancer.  My time in Sarajevo has convinced me that programs like WHEP, which empower survivors to use their own unique experiences to better the lives of others, will reach more women, more effectively than would otherwise be possible.  We saw a community of survivors in Bosnia that will be a resource for each other and for those who are diagnosed with breast cancer.  With continued support from organizations like JDC and Komen, I believe there is a great deal they can accomplish.

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November 5, 2015 at 1:26 PM



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