Wife of the Governor of Ondo State and Founder of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria, BRECAN, Chief Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, has said her purpose for establishing the association has been fulfilled.
Mrs Akeredolu made the declaration on Friday at the Press Conference organised by BRECAN as part of activities marking its 25th anniversary and 4th International Breast Cancer Symposium at the BRECAN Centre, Akinyemi Way, off Ring Road, Ibadan, Oyo State.
“It is one thing to dream and it’s a different experience to see your dream come to fruition. More often than not, for your vision to come alive, you need people. You can dream but if you do not have the right people to drive it, the dream would die a natural death.
“I want to say here today that the vision I had 25 years ago has come to fruition. As at today, we have five active chapters and there are other fledging chapters that are being challenged to be up and doing, but so far, so good, BRECAN is doing well,” she said.
The First Lady who relived the founding experience of the association, said she founded BRECAN after her encounter with breast cancer.
According to her, BRECAN was established when associating with breast cancer was considered to be an anathema by the society.
“The making of Breast Cancer Association of Nigeria came about out of my experience with breast cancer. I did not just wake up someday for want of what to do and think of founding an association as it is the case with some NGOs in Nigeria. Mine was out of a brush with Breast Cancer. It all started in 1997 when breast cancer was dreaded and nobody wants to be associate with it. No one was ready to identify with this organisation because of the two words- Breast and Cancer.
“This was the time when people associate all sorts of superstition and wrong insinuations with breast cancer. The few women who considered joining the association were hindered by what the society would say. That was how difficult it was to recruit members at the beginning. I ended up having few of my friends as founding members. There are times your friends will identify with you on a particular cause, not necessarily because they believe in what you are doing, but merely doing it because of friendship.”
The governor’s wife also narrated how difficult it was to source for funds to support the association during its formative years, noting that the intervention of the students of All Saints College, Ibadan made a whole difference in the initial struggle for funding.
“We can never tell the story of BRECAN without mentioning All Saints College, Ibadan, because they were the ones who made the difference at the very critical time. These students supported the organisation by participating actively in activities that helped to raise the very first substantial fund for the association. They participated in dancing competition and other engagements even when their parents were reluctant about showing interest in what we were doing.”
While commenting on the mileage already covered by the association, the First Lady said, “We have chapters in Oyo, Ondo, Lagos, Imo State and, last year, we also founded Bayelsa State chapter. So BRECAN is growing in leaps and bounds, and we have made new innovations that will help people to know more about the association. We do breast screening and, recently, cervical cancer was also included in our focus because the two are twin devils that afflict women.
“We felt that we should make BRECAN a one-stop shop such that when you come, you get information about breast cancer and you also get information about cervical cancer. We also foster collaboration among chapters by holding Annual General Meeting which brings everybody together, yearly, and we rotate the hosting among the chapters.”
“Every five years, we have a review of BRECAN activities because breast cancer management and treatment keeps evolving, new things are being discovered and knowledge is key in the fight against breast cancer. There are new findings through medical research on treatment and how we can improve on the survival rate of patients.”
Speaking to the anniversary theme: “Closing the data gap in precision Cancer Control in Nigeria”, Chief Anyanwu-Akeredolu said absence of data is a big challenge to planning and that we must have database in order to make meaningful progress in cancer control.
“We have gaps with data. Data tell you where you are and where you need to be. They also help you to know where and what to improve, either with funding or facilities. Data help to provide answers to survival rate, condition of survivors among other indices necessary for growth. It’s high time we established our own data as a country if we must truly progress.”
Earlier, the National of BRECAN, Ambassador Tolu Taiwo, who gave a run down of activities lined up for the 25th anniversary, disclosed that BRECAN has added cervical cancer as part of its activities.
In her words: “We are using the anniversary to show to the world that people are surviving breast cancer. It is an opportunity to see and interact with survivors and hear their stories. You are going to meet the champions of survivorship. We have an organization, funded by BRECAN, called team survivor Nigeria where we celebrate breast cancer survivors. They will share their stories with us.
In the President’s words, other anniversary activities include symposium, Jog4Life and Essay Competition.