Support for Kiwis living with incurable breast cancer

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Sweet Louise, New Zealand’s only charity dedicated to supporting Kiwis with incurable breast cancer, is working to support some of the country’s most vulnerable people as the impact of COVID-19 sets in.

With New Zealand in lockdown, the organisation, which provides practical, emotional and social support to people in New Zealand living with Stage 4 breast cancer, is doing everything it can to continue to provide support to its 700-plus members at this time.

“Members of the Sweet Louise community are often not able to leave the house at the best of times, let alone now. They have compromised immunity, due to living with incurable breast cancer and chemotherapy so leaving home to get the essentials is not an easy task,” says Philippa Reed, CEO of Sweet Louise.

“COVID-19 has provided our members with more challenges than normal, and we are grateful for any help to make their day-to-day lives easier during this challenging time. During these unprecedented times we are continuing in our commitment to support women and men in New Zealand living with incurable breast cancer.”

Emergency appeal launched

Due to the cancellation of fundraising events, Sweet Louise has launched a campaign to raise funds to provide emergency food and petrol vouchers to its members during this period when they need them most and may be feeling more isolated than usual.

Donations of $50 for emergency petrol vouchers to assist with getting to medical appointments, or $100 for emergency food vouchers are welcome through Sweet Louise’s website.

Sweet Louise is also inviting Kiwis after creative cooking ideas to download its e-cookbook from its website. For just $31, they can download ‘The Sweet Louise Cookbook’ which contains 31 recipes from Sweet Louise members, and familiar Kiwis, including Sweet Louise ambassador Hannah Barrett.

The digital cookbook features recipes from Sweet Louise members, which are comforting to them. Also included are recipes from celebrity chef Al Brown, Matilda Green, Shavaughn Ruakere, Sarah Gandy, Jesse Mulligan, Karla Goodwin (Bluebells Cakery), Jordan Rondel (The Caker) and esteemed dietitian Angela Berrill and Sweet Louise sponsors LOAF, Bird on a Wire and Silver Fern Farms.

“I love trying all the different recipes from the e-book, there is something in there for everyone,” says Sweet Louise Ambassador Hannah Barrett. “I download the recipes on my phone when I am in the kitchen looking for inspiration – it’s so vibrant and colourful, just what we need right now!”

Currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the Sweet Louise community. However, the organisation’s support coordinators are reaching out to its members frequently to check on them via phone, email and by setting up regular video meetings. They have also shifted its face-to-face meetings, held around the country once a month, to online video calls for members to continue to come together at this time.

“Sweet Louise has been offering emotional, psychological and social support for our members since 2006 and it’s very important that they still feel connected at this uncertain time. We understand that many members have been living in times of uncertainty since their cancer diagnosis, and how resilient they are. We are doing everything we can to offer additional support right now,” adds Reed.

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Making a difference

Breast cancer is New Zealand’s third most common type of cancer and more than 600 people each year die from it. Approximately 3,000 men and women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and between 20-30% will go on to develop incurable breast cancer.

Once diagnosed with incurable breast cancer, the average life expectancy is less than two years.

Annually, Sweet Louise supports around 900 Kiwis with incurable breast cancer – and since the start of 2019, 299 Kiwis who were members of Sweet Louise, have passed away.

Sweet Louise member, single mother Cheryl Carr will benefit from Sweet Louise’s COVID-19 fundraising appeal. Cheryl was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 36. Four years later, she was told the cancer had spread to her spine. Sweet Louise provides her $500 worth of financial assistance each year to spend on practical support including getting home meals delivered, garden and home maintenance, uplifting wellbeing experiences and family outings.

“Sweet Louise has helped me when I cannot make ends meet by providing basic services – from groceries, to lawn mowing, petrol vouchers and wellness experiences, they have made such a positive difference in my life,” says Cheryl.