The Tonga Breast Cancer Society was established in 2007, with the steadfast mission for promoting breast cancer awareness to all people in the Kingdom of Tonga. Since its inception, the TBCS has achieved the goal of spreading awareness and helping victims and their families’ get through these traumatic experiences. One of the best ways to treat breast cancer awareness is through early detection and to maintain a healthy diet while decreasing alcohol and tobacco intake. The work has been tough and tumultuous but, also, with the teamwork and selflessness of others, extremely rewarding. This month will mark my third year as having the honor and privilege to serve as the President of the Tonga Breast Cancer Society. The Tonga Breast Cancer Society is an amazing organization and, also, a piece of community and service that has become a family affair. My mother, Princess Royal HRH Princess Salote Pilolevu, is the patron of the Tonga Breast Cancer Society but it was her cousin, my aunt, Polotu Paunga, who got me involved with TBCS.
Alongside efforts to raise awareness, the Tonga Breast Cancer Society has hosted events to raise funds for proper tools to assist in early detection. In 2014, the Tonga Breast Cancer Society was able to commission a mammography machine for the Vaiola Hospital. Early detection can be a matter of life or death as breast cancer has become the most common cancer in Tonga, having claimed the lives of over two dozen people in the past two years. For many people in Tonga and throughout the Pacific, there is still a lack of culturally adapted cancer education and a common belief that cancer inevitably leads to death. With the lack of information and understanding, the Tonga Breast Cancer Society plays an important and distinctive role; to bring women and men together to feel supported and to have the courage to get checked for early signs of breast cancer. It has been no small task, especially when education and awareness can be the difference between life and death, thus making every little effort count.
Every year in October, we “Pink Ladies” come together to organize different events for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The month of October is a festive time for the TBCS and this year was no different, except that I was nominated to “champion” the months’ launch on the first of October. It was an exciting honor but one that came with a long list of duties. Thanks to the TBCS committee, the launch was successful and I was delighted to see HRH Crown Princess accept our invitation to be the Guest of Honor at the launch. I often wonder if the charities that my family is involved with are as wonderful as the Tonga Breast Cancer Society; it makes me proud to be a part of TBCS because of how the cause brings people together from all backgrounds, especially Tongan and foreign women.
During my time as President of TBCS, I’ve had the amazing honor to meet strong women, who have overcome the odds and are no longer victims of breast cancer. They are the true heroes of the organization. Every day I spend with the Tonga Breast Cancer Society, through fundraisers and outreach, I am touched by their work and commitment to the cause. It is groups like the Tonga Breast Cancer Society that I notice as modern ways royalty and nobility can stay in touch with their people. We weren’t just born to lead but also to serve and I want to be a good role model for my children; to grow an urgency in them for community service and caring for others who are less fortunate. This is one of the reasons why I take my daughter, Fahina, with me to almost every event; so that she grows up accustomed to giving her time and energy to causes which will help others. So, it is with a heart full of joy that I wish everyone has a wonderful and active Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Together, we are stronger, and together we can all achieve more. I hope that everyone will be excited to wear pink, donate and participate in Breast Cancer Awareness activities with the spirit of our theme “Stronger Together”.
Article Written By: Hon. Frederica Filipe
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