Bellingen’s Dr Olivia Bell and Rachelle Panitz, founder of the young women’s breast cancer charity So Brave, joined forces this morning to launch the 2018 calendar.
Olivia features as the month of May, wearing full bodypaint and standing against the backdrop of Never Never Creek in the Promised Land.
Each woman spoke candidly about her experience of delayed diagnosis of breast cancer and stressed the importance of girls and young women becoming breast aware in order to be the most effective advocates for their own health.
“If you grow them, know them,” Rachelle quipped, saying that there should be no taboos around women being entirely familiar with the look and feel of their own boobs.
Olivia, whose breast cancer story can be read here, began her talk by saying that she had felt impelled to become a model for the So Brave calendar not only because she has come through breast cancer herself but also because she was tired of patients and friends being diagnosed too late, and she wants more women to feel confident doing self-examination.
“I thought a bit of mischief was in order,” she said. “If I can’t make a doctor stripping off and getting bodypainted a topic of gossip I don’t know what would.”
She gave an educational talk at the launch, stressing that checking yourself once a month was much more effective than a yearly check for lumps by a doctor.
She said stripping off and looking in the mirror with arms raised allows you to notice any changes in breast appearance. This could include a change in overall shape or skin changes such as puckering, dimpling, or reddening.
A flat hand is better than squeezing with your fingers, and you should check the entire area from collar bone down, including nipples and the lymph nodes in the armpits, going right around the side of the body to the back.
This year’s calendar focuses on women in regional Australia, who tend to have worse outcomes than women in metro areas due to poorer access to health services and distance-related constraints on their treatment choices.