Hull and East Riding Breast Friends, known as HER Breast Friends, is a small local registered charity founded in 2005 by two ladies, Jan Jones and Liz Drury, who at the time were both undergoing treatment for breast cancer at Castle Hill Hospital. While Jan and Liz are sadly no longer with us, every day the impact of what they achieved is felt by everyone at HER Breast Friends and beyond. Here, group Trustee and breast cancer survivor Pam tells us about everything the group does.
About the group
Jan and Liz realised there was a need for a group that didn’t focus on the disease, but more on the emotional and practical side of things. They wanted to use the experience they were going through in a positive way, to help not only themselves but others that would undoubtedly follow. The pair initially began by fundraising for comfy chairs in the breast care unit and oncology ward at Castle Hill Hospital. As more people became aware of their activities, the group grew and HER Breast Friends was formed.
From initially meeting in each other’s’ houses, larger meeting places were sought. Various church halls became our meeting place until 2011, when we acquired our own suite of rooms at the Chamberlain Business Centre on Chamberlain Rd, Hull. In 2018, the Charity moved to a more modern and accessible premises. The Octagon on Walker Street in Hull is where we’re still based today.
The charity is run by volunteers and supported by one full-time member of staff funded by grants. All of the aforementioned have been affected by breast cancer, either personally or through family, friends, or colleagues. After all, you do not have to have a diagnosis of breast cancer to be affected by it.
Membership for the group is open to both men and women and costs just £5.00 for the year. This money goes towards the cost of facilities, services and activities we run. As a member, you get a say at our AGM about how the charity develops, but you do not have to be a member to access all our facilities.
We are not medically trained and we do not offer medical advice about breast cancer or its treatment, but we are able to suggest and signpost to the people who can.
Our aim is to create a positive environment offering encouragement and friendship, whilst also providing practical help for those going through their cancer journey.
The butterfly was chosen as the symbol of the charity; while it means many things in different cultures, hope and transformation emerge as a common theme. The butterfly appears on our merchandise and can be found around the various rooms within the charity.
Possibly someone’s first point of contact with the charity would be if they received one of our patient gift packs, which we provide to the hospital for those having undergone surgery for breast cancer. It’s a small bag of toiletries and treats along with a cushion, currently made by our craft group and other voluntary groups. The cushion is ideal to rest your arm or head-on, but they come into their own when travelling home for seat belt comfort. More recently, we’ve also included our FUN stress-relieving dammit dolls and an information folder to let people know that they are not alone, we are thinking of them, and we are here if they need us.
Our support also includes a wig bank, which we’re currently providing via a home delivery service, our Buddleia therapy service, a bra service, a Wednesday craft group, dance night, and the occasional trip!
Our flagship event is our Pink Pamper Day, which caters for up to 100 people with a diagnosis of breast cancer to be thoroughly pampered, attend a variety of workshops, enjoy a lovely lunch and as in previous years make some long-lasting friendships. 2020 is the first year since 2006 that it has been cancelled.
Usually, our premises are open Monday to Friday, from 10 am until 4 pm. for anyone to pop in if they wish… the kettle is always on! However, we’re currently closed due to COVID-19.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have engaged our members and supporters in various activities such as a weekly quiz provided by Simon, one of our Trustees, and a bakery corner with various delicious recipes provided by our members.
Our Buddleia therapists provide a calming distanced Reiki session each Tuesday at 3 pm. This can all be accessed via our website and social media pages.
Our Craft Group has continued their amazing work from home, providing the heart cushions, dammit dolls, seat belt cushions and face masks.
Unfortunately, activities such as the dance class and monthly meetings, which often feature guest speakers, have now come to a halt, along with all our fundraising events in what would have been our celebratory 15th year supporting local people affected by breast cancer!
In November 2010, I was going away for a weekend with friends. I had lost my hair through chemo and therefore thought it would be a nice idea to get a wig. Little did I realise how expensive wigs can be! During a hospital visit, my husband came across a HER Breast Friends information booklet. They were a support group with a difference and of course they had a Wig Bank!
I said earlier that HER Breast Friends is a support group with a difference. I think of these groups as people sitting around a table discussing their illness, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! The first meeting I attended, I thought I was in the wrong place, as all I could hear was laughter. Everyone is so positive.
I began volunteering with the charity by helping at events, but when a Breast Awareness Team was developed in 2012, I quickly became involved. After all, if I didn’t know the signs to look out for, I imagined there were others who weren’t aware too.
The team (all volunteers) deliver talks to groups such as WI’s, ladies groups, schools – basically anywhere that we are asked! These talks cover the signs and symptoms to look out for and help encourage the uptake of breast screening while also dispelling some of the myths and fears that may accompany breast cancer and screening in what has been described as a fun but informative manner on a serious subject.
We also hold events at various locations, such as leisure centres, shopping centres and markets.
Ten years on, I am now a Trustee of the Charity and lead the Breast Awareness Team. This year, due to COVID-19, our talks have been halted, although I did take part in my first webinar talk to the Hull Women in Business Group. Online is currently the way to go but myself and the team much prefer that face-to-face social contact, which we will hopefully, soon be able to get back to!
Find out more about the group at www.herbreastfriends.org.uk
Contact the team by email on [email protected] or call 01482 221368.