So Brave, Australia's Young Women's Breast Cancer Charity, now in its fourth year, is launching its 2020 calendar to raise vital funds and awareness for breast cancer, whilst empowering young breast cancer survivors.
Having already distributed $115,000 for breast cancer research, each year So Brave creates a captivating fundraising calendar featuring 12 young Australian women who are breast cancer survivors. The women are transformed with body art and are photographed for the annual fundraising calendar. The photographs depict the metamorphosis that each young woman has gone through during their body paint photoshoot and breast cancer journey.
Net proceeds from the sale of the 2020 So Brave Calendar go to supporting So Brave's mission: empowering young breast cancer survivors; educating young women across Australia and; funding research that better prevents, diagnoses, treats and monitors breast cancer in young women.
Young breast cancer survivor, Managing Director and Founder of So Brave, Rachelle Panitz, says: "Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women aged 20-39 years. The So Brave calendar is a celebration of the women and of their bravery in facing breast cancer and in sharing in this bodypainting experience to raise awareness and money to fight this disease. Our young breast cancer survivors truly are SO BRAVE."
So Brave has transformed 48 young breast cancer survivors. All survivors were diagnosed with breast cancer before they turned 40. The 2020 fundraising calendar features young women from South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, and Victoria.
Rachelle comments: "We receive no Government funding so our ability to affect change in this area to improve outcomes for young Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer is entirely dependent on our supporters coming to our events, fundraising in the community, making donations and purchasing our fundraising calendar."
The So Brave fundraising calendar launched on Saturday 14 September 2019 at the Emporium Hotel in Brisbane. Funds raised from the National Launch Weekend and fundraising calendar support So Brave's programs:
• Support programs for young women: our signature So Brave Model Ambassador Program and online support group So Brave CONNECT;
• Awareness programs: community events and education program educating the next generation to be #breastaware; and
• The research investment program directly funding $115,000 in research.
Rachelle concludes: "2019 has been an incredible year of growth for So Brave and we are thrilled to be able to bring our beautiful imagery and mission to raise awareness to even more communities across Australia."
For more information about So Brave and to purchase the 2020 fundraising calendar, visit: https://sobrave.com.au/.
Question: What is So Brave?
Rachelle Panitz: So Brave is Australia's young women's breast cancer charity. We're in our fourth year and it's our mission to empower young breast cancer survivors; educate young women across Australia [young women get breast cancer too] and; fund research that better prevents, diagnoses, treats and monitors breast cancer in young women.
Each year, So Brave creates a captivating fundraising calendar featuring 12 young Australian women who are breast cancer survivors. The women are transformed with body art and are photographed for the annual fundraising calendar, and the photos depict the metamorphosis that each young woman has gone through during their body paint photoshoot and breast cancer journey.
The fundraising calendar is our hero project each year and it is so important because its proceeds fund our core So Brave programs.
We run support programs for young women, such as our So Brave Model Ambassador Program and online support group So Brave CONNECT. We also host community events and education programs to educate the next generation to be #breastaware. And as equally as important, we have a research investment program.
We know the conversation around breast cancer needs to change for young women, because they too can get breast cancer and experience its devastating impact on your personal life and career.
Question: What originally inspired you to begin So Brave?
Rachelle Panitz: I'm a young breast cancer survivor myself, having been diagnosed at 32-years-old. I found it very difficult as a young woman; I felt isolated, confused and frustrated with the lack of medical support and information about the risk of breast cancer and diagnoses in young women.
I decided to harness this setback and help empower other women. So, ever since, I've been determined to forge an easier path for the 900 young women under 40 years of age that are diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia each year.
I wanted to create awareness that breast cancer can happen at any age, with or without a family or genetic history.
Question: Can you share with us, your breast cancer story?
Rachelle Panitz: Breast cancer turned my family and professional life upside down. I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 32-years old. I had just given birth to my son six weeks earlier and I had a 3-year-old daughter.
I endured nearly 18-months of treatment – surgery, chemo, radiation, immunotherapy and hormone therapy, and that only begins to scratch the surface of my recovery.
I have no family history or genetic predisposition to breast cancer, and if I hadn't become aware of what was normal for me while I was breastfeeding my daughter, I might not have realised the lump I found when I was pregnant with my son wasn't supposed to be there.
Breast cancer, like any significant illness causes you to take stock of your life and the direction you're heading, and for me, I realised how important it was to make sure that other young women realised this isn't just something that happens once you start getting mammograms. It can happen at a time in your life when everything is busy, and puts everything into both turmoil and perspective.
Question: Can you tell us about the 2020 calendar?
Rachelle Panitz: Our 2020 So Brave calendar is a colourful and empowering visual representation of the metamorphosis that each young woman has undergone – both through her experience with breast cancer and through the uplifting transformation of a full body paint photoshoot.
It is a celebration of the women and of their bravery in facing breast cancer and in sharing in this body-painting experience to raise awareness and key funds to fight the disease.
The calendar also features key tips and information about breast care, as well as a snapshot of each young woman's story.
Our young breast cancer survivors truly are SO BRAVE.
You can purchase one from our website, sobrave.com.au.
Question: Where will funds raised from the 2020 calendar sales go?
Rachelle Panitz: The net proceeds from our 2020 So Brave fundraising calendar go to supporting our mission: to empower young breast cancer survivors, to educate young Australian women and to fund breast cancer research for young women.
We receive no Government funding so our ability to affect change in this area to improve outcomes for young Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer is entirely dependent on our supporters coming to our events, fundraising in the community, making donations and purchasing our fundraising calendar.
Question: What advice do you have for young Australians recently diagnosed with breast cancer?
Rachelle Panitz: There is never going to be a right time to have a cancer diagnosis, but getting this diagnosis now when it's completely unexpected is really hard. The community that So Brave has created over the past four years goes some way to reducing that disconnect and isolation, but I would urge you to connect in with your own community.
One thing that getting cancer taught me was my need to rely on others, which is hard for young women who are independent and driven like I am. It's hard to ask for help, but this is the time when you need to and not be afraid to ask. Rally your supporters around you to help with the kids, or help with the cleaning or the cooking, picking up and dropping off kids, coming with you for treatments and also to take you away from the scariness that is cancer. You may really be surprised about who will step up and maybe disappointed about people you expected to be there for you but aren't, try not to take that onboard.
And always remember you are stronger than you know!
Question: What's next for you and So Brave?
Rachelle Panitz: I have a vision that breast cancer will not be a feared diagnosis in the future. I have a wild dream that my daughter will never have to worry about everything I went through because it simply won't exist. Treatments will be so much more advanced and monitoring and diagnosis will be simplified and easy to access for everyone. That's the research side that I'd like to continue working on with leading researchers to achieve.
On the education side, I can't wait to see more schools involved in our young women's education programs. Now, more than ever, young women are so aware of their bodies, but there may not be the understanding of the importance of breast checks from a young age. I see that changing within a generation.
For myself, I'd like to see So Brave being well known within the Australian community, so that when a young woman is diagnosed, she knows that she's not alone, and that breast cancer in young women is actually known to be a lot more common than the community currently thinks.
Interview by Brooke Hunter