Keeping Abreast to celebrate 15 years of breast cancer support
09:00 a.m. February 5, 2022
As part of our new campaign to support local charities, each week we highlight the vital work they do and the difference they make in the lives of people in our communities.
Keeping Abreast, the Norfolk-based charity celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, supports women with breast cancer and those considering surgery.
The charity started in 2007 and was the brainchild of patients Anna Beckingham and Beverley Birritteri and breast reconstruction nurse Ruth Harcourt. They recognized the need for women, both newly diagnosed with breast cancer and facing the possibility of mastectomy, as well as those considering reconstructive surgery, to be able to meet and talk to other people who have had similar experiences, allowing them to make their own informed choices.
As well as physical support groups, the charity also runs a closed online support community on Facebook called Keeping Abreast Online Support Group UK.
Support is also provided to patients via “Pink Packs”; information packets that are distributed during their first appointments at the hospital, and via the “KA Comfort & Care Bags” that are given to people facing breast reconstruction surgery.
Carefully designed to help patients recover, their contents include items such as heart-shaped cushions, drainage bag covers, eye masks and face masks as well as vouchers for post-operative bras. .
Danielle Day turned to Keeping Abreast for help with a mastectomy and DIEP Flap breast reconstruction using tissue taken from her belly.
Having been told that her treatment could affect her ability to start a family, she was delighted to find out later that was not the case.
She said: “I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of May 2017. I was 29 years old. I was told my cancer was aggressive, so they wanted me to start chemotherapy as soon as possible. This meant I didn’t have time to freeze eggs.
“I was in a new relationship and so desperate to recover that I jumped on it and had chemotherapy five weeks later. After six cycles of chemotherapy I then had a unilateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery DIEP Flap, followed by radiotherapy.
“I was told that I would not be able to have children after the effects of chemotherapy so I am extremely shocked to find in March 2020 I am 10 weeks pregnant…my belly was fine , and I had a big boy! I now have some stretchmarks to keep my scar firm DIEP.”
Impact of Covid-19
Like so many other charities, Keeping Abreast has had to adapt over the past two years to ensure it continues to support those who need it most.
This Norfolk-based breast cancer reconstruction charity helps those who are facing, considering or undergoing breast reconstruction following a diagnosis of breast cancer or the discovery of an inherited breast cancer gene.
Usually support is offered in person at Support Group meetings, either through the Keeping Abreast Support Group in Norwich or Outreach Groups in Stalham and Wymondham as well as in the West County via the Support Group KA at King’s Lynn.
However, Covid-19 had a significant impact on the charity and its services, as face-to-face meetings were no longer viable and so the team had to think outside the box in order to offer support. helps in different ways. Keeping Abreast volunteers supported breast reconstruction patients by phone and email, of course, but also via WhatsApp and Zoom. KA’s head office, located in Little Melton near Norwich, has also set up a series of ‘Zoom Speaker Sessions’ on different topics related to breast reconstruction, which have proven hugely popular, and the KA website The charity has been completely revamped so that additional areas of support are available, with the new site already attracting thousands of views.
The new site includes FAQs, patient stories and audio clips about breast reconstruction as well as actual video footage of real-life reconstruction results.
As one breast reconstruction patient said, “Thank goodness for charities like KA – people need a place to go to ask questions and seek help. I was so grateful to know that I could turn to you and ask for advice and help.
Fortunately, as Covid restrictions have been lifted, face-to-face support groups are returning, but additional support services, such as Zoom Speaker sessions, are also here to stay.
Peer-to-peer support for people facing breast reconstruction has proven to be invaluable and those who attend face-to-face support groups also have the chance to see the real results of breast reconstruction in “Show & Tell” sessions. “, where those who have been through breast reconstruction surgery show their results to others.
Keeping Abreast turns 15 this year.
Since its inception in 2007, the breast cancer reconstruction charity has grown significantly and now has three part-time paid staff, a board of six trustees and over 150 volunteers.
As well as support and awareness groups in Norwich, King’s Lynn, Wymondham and Stalham, support groups have also been set up in other parts of the country including Herts & Beds, Leicester, Bristol, Cheltenham, Sheffield and Liverpool.
A self-funded business, Keeping Abreast has seen its regular revenue significantly affected by the pandemic.
To counter this and to celebrate its 15th anniversary, the charity is crowdfunding to raise a further £15,000 this year and donations can be made online at: www.justgiving.com/campaign/KA15Years
Additionally, the famous ‘More Than Abreast Keep Shows in Fashion’, when breast cancer patients strut down the catwalk, will return this autumn in Norwich, with dates to be confirmed soon.
Keeping Abreast’s charity number is 1129522 and more information, support and ways to help the charity can be found at www.keepingabreast.org.uk.
* If you would like to suggest a charity, contact [email protected]