Breast Care: The Best Care
Over the last two years, Natural Approach has been supporting the amazing cause that is Chelle’s – Saving Starfish. We provide donations of our mini deodorant tins and lip balms to include in the generous assembling of hospital care packs for recently diagnosed breast cancer patients.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – and we thought there would be no better time than now to catch up with Michelle Sterrey, the founder and organiser of this incredible cause, to discuss all things breast care, and to find out how this amazing project is going.
Michelle, we’ve loved working with you over the last two years, can you please share with us a bit about yourself.
I’m in my 50’s and alongside being a wife and a mother to three adults, I am a Children’s and Families’ Pastor. I facilitate the running of programs for primary aged children and run Playgroups for families in our local community. My hobbies include caring for animals (through animal shelters), reading, exercising, and spending time in the great outdoors.
Why did you start Chelle’s Saving Starfish?
In 2019, I was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer and underwent surgery, chemo, radiation, Herceptin, and bone therapy. It was whilst I was going through my chemo treatment that I began to ponder the question as to how I would use my experience of cancer going forward if I was to survive.
In 2020, the pandemic began and many of my fellow cancer patients at the hospital I was being treated at were stressed by the fact that they couldn’t get simple supplies that they needed during an already stressful situation. I decided to organise the filling of some laundry baskets with items that were needed each time I went to the shops, and I asked friends to help. When I took these items into the hospital the response was overwhelming.
I began to realise that putting together care packs for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients was something I could do. Therefore, I began to rally companies and asked them and individuals to donate products for the packs. These products included items that help ease the side effects of treatment as well as comfort items to help people understand that they were thought of at their greatest time of need. Over time these packs were so well received that we extended them to other hospitals and a breast cancer foundation.
What is the meaning behind the name ‘Chelle’s Saving Starfish’?
‘Chelle’ is a shortened version of my name, Michelle. Saving Starfish came out of The Starfish Story.
The Starfish Story represents making a difference to one Starfish, and Chelle’s – Saving Starfish seeks to make a difference to the one person who receives our packs. It’s our dream to get the packs to as many cancer patients as possible one day; but in the meantime, we focus on the one person who receives it and hope it makes a difference for them.
What kind of feedback do you receive from your care packs?
I’m very humbled by the feedback we receive through the hospitals that patients cry when they receive their packs. They find the items inside the packs incredibly useful and appreciate that they are thought of as they commence their treatment.
How can people and/or businesses help your amazing cause?
Businesses can contribute by supplying relevant products for the packs; of which there are many.
Individuals can donate from the list that we provide.
Every donation, no matter how big or small, is so appreciated. We couldn’t fulfil our dream to get as many packs into the hands of cancer patients as possible without the support of both businesses and individuals.
Individuals can also volunteer their time to be involved in the packing of the care packs and the transportation of the packs to where they are needed.
What does Breast Cancer Awareness Month mean to you?
It’s an emotional month as breast cancer is highlighted; yet it is an important month to help people understand the risks involved as many women (and men also) don’t believe it will ever happen to them.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month saves lives, not only because people are more likely to donate towards research, but people become more aware of what to look out for in their own bodies.
What advice and support do you like to give anyone diagnosed with breast cancer?
- Be gentle on yourself – there is so much information to take in during the early days if diagnosed.
- Listen to your medical team, ask them questions and if there is anything you don’t understand or feel overwhelmed by, let them know.
- DO NOT Google. Knowledge is power but receive it from those that are on your team.
- Don’t compare yourself to the person beside you receiving treatment. Everyone’s experience is unique to them.
- NEVER, EVER lose your sense of hope.
Is there any general advice you have for people about breast care?
- Remember: ‘number 5 to stay alive’ – use the 5th of the month to do a self-examination and know your own breasts.
- Keep up with your mammograms as early intervention saves lives.
- Eat less sugary and processed foods, and work towards regular exercise.
- Avoid using aluminium-based deodorants and underwire bras as they both increase your risk.
These days I stick to natural and organic products which include Natural Approach deodorants. I know they are safe as well as ethically manufactured.
Chelle’s – Saving Starfish relies on the generous donations of others to create these amazing and much-needed care packs to help those fighting one of the toughest battles of their lives. If you can help Michelle, please reach out to her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Michelle also has a Facebook page: Chelle’s Saving Starfish (Breast Cancer Care Packs).
For free information and support – and information on how to provide your support during Breast Cancer Awareness Month – you can visit the Breast Cancer Network Australia website: https://www.bcna.org.au/