In The Pink With Breast Cancer Now
by Hanna Prince
In the decade since Burgess Hill Breast Cancer Now was first established, the group has raised over £150,000 for breast cancer research. Hanna Prince talks to the founders to find out more
It was her own cancer diagnosis in 2008 that inspired Denise Mansell to begin fundraising for Breast Cancer Now. With the support of close friend Nicola Webb, she decided to throw a ‘Pink Party’ at St Edward’s Church in Burgess Hill. “It was an informal ‘come and enjoy a glass of prosecco with us’,” she says, “but everyone had a really great time. That prompted us to begin hosting coffee mornings at Nicola’s house and it’s all really gone from there.”
Over the past decade, Burgess Hill Breast Cancer Now has raised an incredible £150,000 for breast cancer research. The core group has swelled to include Tania Leach and Debbie Mansell – and, despite having to juggle their charitable work around full-time jobs, the friends manage to organise a crammed programme of events. “When the coffee mornings proved a success, we started doing Christmas evenings and then branched out into themed discos,” says Denise. “That led to us running quiz nights, which are always really popular.”
In the past few years, the group has hosted everything from grand balls at Hickstead to ‘Nuts Challenge’ army assault courses. The next few months are packed with fundraising fun – upcoming events include a yoga retreat at Fairfield Community Hall on 27th October and a Christmas fair on 30th November. What’s more, a pub in Goddards Green will host a charitable cocktail masterclass in February and donate 10% of takings from Christmas parties booked for Mondays to Thursdays in December to Breast Cancer Now.
“We’re really appreciative of all the local businesses that support us,” says Tania. “Local businesses and local people often come to us with ideas and they think of us when they’re putting something on. The community in this area is just brilliant.”
The funds raised are all channelled straight into cutting-edge breast cancer research. Breast Cancer Now is housed within the Royal Marsden and fundraisers are invited up for an annual tour to see the progress that their hard work supports.
“Every time we go up, they’ve had new breakthroughs,” says Denise. “On our last visit we were shown into a room with two amazing microscopes and one of the scientists put up a picture of what looked like a blob of green slime. He told us that this was the first time they’d been able to see a living cancer cell on a 3D screen and see how it moves, which is the first step towards stopping it linking up with other cells and spreading.”
Having spent the past decade focussing on raising money for research, BCN Burgess Hill are now moving towards a more holistic approach. The aim is to offer health-promoting activities alongside the community- focussed events that the group already organises, with a particular focus on yoga retreats. “We ran one retreat in July and we have another coming up in November,” explains Tania. “They are all about encouraging people to be mindful about their bodies and how to reduce the stresses we put ourselves under in everyday life.”
Educating women about how to detect early signs of cancer is also an important aim for the group. Denise suggests checking your breasts once per month and downloading the Breast Cancer Now app to guide yourself through the process. This advice isn’t restricted to women – men can be affected too. “Through checking themselves, three of our friends have had early diagnoses of breast cancer,” says Denise. “It’s really important for people to be aware of the signs and pick up on them quickly.”
With breast cancer awareness coming up in October, it’s the perfect time to get involved with fundraising for this fantastic cause. Visit the Burgess Hill Breast Cancer Now Facebook page to find out more about upcoming BCN events or discuss organisational support for your own charitable project.