Bosom Buddy
Fairlady|October 2017

Frustrated by lengthy waiting times for patients who needed mastectomies and the pressure on Groote Schuur Hospital’s breast clinic and oncology unit due to a lack of resources, surgeon Dr Liana Roodt accepted a challenge from her wine club friends to do something about it. And that’s how Project Flamingo started.

Shireen Fisher

I studied towards a B.Comm. degree for a year before I switched to medicine. Even though I was always interested in medicine, people said, “It’s such a bad idea. You won’t have a life.” But the desire to connect with people kept pulling me towards it. Once I was confident enough to trust my own voice, I did it, despite what everyone else was saying.

I think it was in my third year that I did my first surgical rotation. One of the patients had breast cancer, and I will never forget seeing her confusion and fear. It stuck with me. I always thought, “I’d like to go back to make a difference to patients like that.”

When I finally started working as a surgical medical officer, I was again presented with the challenges facing cancer patients, and thought, “I always said I wanted to do this, and here it is.” It’s about growing into your calling. I think you know what you want to do but there’s no point in rushing it, forcing it. If it’s genuine, if it’s true, you’ll mature into it. When you’re ready to deal with it, it will come.

Surgery is often the first step in the treatment of breast cancer. If it’s delayed, the entire treatment process is delayed, which, in terms of the cancer, isn’t ideal. Just imagine the psychological burden on patients. You give them the diagnosis, then expect them to carry that for 10 or 12 weeks before you actually start treatment. The impact on the patient is devastating. It also has an impact on the staff; it’s demoralising because you’re in this job to try to help people but you can’t.

I told the women in my wine club about my frustrations, and they set me a challenge: “Do something about it and we’ll help you.”

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