How two mountain bikers blazed a better trail for breast health

The name may be fun, but ILoveBoobies has a serious message to share.

*By Cathy Park Kelly

Cecil Munch and his business partner, Nicky Webb, share a love of mountain biking.

Their trail routes lead them through rural areas in the Western Cape, such as Montagu, Worcester, Grabouw and farms in Stellenbosch.

One day, moved by the struggle of the communities they discovered through their trail riding, Cecil and Nicky sat down to brainstorm ideas of how they could get involved.

Their conversation turned to the needs of women in these communities. How could they play a role in helping to improve their lives?

As breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer amongst women — one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime — Cecil and Nicky zoned in on breast health.

Early detection, followed by appropriate treatment, is the most effective method of reducing mortality from breast cancer. The majority of women who die from breast cancer live in low- and middle-income countries.

So started ILoveBoobies, a registered charity that provides education on breast health and screenings for breast cancer in rural communities.

To fund the project, which screens 1 200 women a year, ILoveBoobies sells a range of locally-made exercise apparel, and runs cycle tours and other promotional events.

Supporters of ILoveBoobies get to “look good, feel good, and do good”, says Cecil, who runs the non-profit organisation together with Nicky.

“Applying the principle of ‘each one teach one’, ILoveBoobies encourages women to teach others about the importance of self-examination and regular screening.”

ILoveBoobies employs three nurses who go visit communities and organisations to screen, educate, and inform.

Every person they screen gets booked for re-screening every 24 months, as ongoing screening is key.

Where the breast screening necessitates a clinical referral, ILoveBoobies works closely with Project Flamingo, a group of surgeons and oncologists who offer their services pro bono at Groote Schuur, Tygerberg, and other government hospitals.

ILoveBoobies also has a WhatsApp group and a social worker for women who may need to undergo surgery or further treatment. Applying the principle of “each one teach one”, ILoveBoobies encourages women to teach others about the importance of self-examination and regular screening.

As Nicky Webb says, “The mother’s position and role are critical in our communities. We must take care of her for her own sake and that of her loved ones. The ILoveBoobies charity was created to take the screening service to her. It is really that simple”.

With its slightly risqué name and brightly-coloured branded apparel, ILoveBoobies is helping to stir interest and normalise the conversation around breast health.

“The difficult part,” says Cecil, “the thing that bothers me, is that we can’t scale fast enough to meet the challenge”.

Still, the non-profit organisation is making a very real difference to the women it serves — more than 5 000 so far, in just five-and-a-half years.

And all it took to get the project started was two people, enjoying their out-rides, and wondering what they could do to blaze a trail for others.

  • This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

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