The fight against breast cancer doesn’t begin and end in October; it lasts 365 days a year. Here, Gertrude Abela, the President of Europa Donna Malta, tells us how, together, Europa Donna Malta and RIDT, are paving the way to a better future.
It was back in 1989 that Breast Cancer Support Group was founded; and, as an NGO, its role was to help and support women and families going through the trauma of breast cancer. Then, in 2004, the Group became affiliated with Europa Donna, the European Breast Cancer Coalition, and from then on, the Group rebranded to Europa Donna Malta.
The Group’s current president is Gertrude Abela, a passionate and driven woman, who is also a mother of five and grandmother of one.
“I first joined the Breast Cancer Support Group 15 years ago, when I, myself, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was absolutely surreal. I was lying in bed when I then felt a small lump just underneath my arm. I didn’t make much of it, but I did keep going back to it and trying to figure out what it was…
“Since I didn’t want to worry my family, I told a friend. She offered to come with me to the doctor’s, and from an ultrasound, I was referred to a surgeon, and the next thing I knew I was being operated on. Then the radiotherapy and chemo started…”
Gertrude is a survivor, but she does admit that there were many times breast cancer almost took over her life.
“It’s a whole saga of ups and downs; hope and despair. But I had a lot of things to look forward to and to keep me going,” she admits.
But Gertrude also wanted to get her story out there and to help other women the way she was helped during some of the darkest hours of her life, and it was then that she joined Breast Cancer Support Care Group.
“Fast-forward a few years and I’m now the President of the organisation,” she says. “This involves the day-to-day running of the organisation, visiting patients when needed, organising seminars and talks and fundraising events – all with the help of my committe, of course.”
On top of raising awareness and funds, Europa Donna Malta also befriends those who are undergoing the process to help them deal with all the hardships at hand. They also hold regular lectures to help professionals understand the emotions experienced by those battling breast cancer.
“One of our most valuable and perpetual initiatives remains the collecting and distribution of funds, however,” Gertrude continues. “Those funds go to anything from creating, printing and distributing breast cancer awareness books and leaflets, to an educational fund to help health professionals further their studies, to research taking place at the University of Malta by Maltese researchers.”
Today, the Breast Cancer Research Group of the University of Malta is made up of researchers coming from various departments, including the Department of Physiology and Biochemistry, the Department of Pathology, and the Department of Surgery, along with the Department of Pathology and Surgery of Mater Dei Hospital.
One of this Group’s most noteworthy successes was their identification of a marker in cells that controls the growth of blood cells and they are now trying to understand its role within breast cancer, which may result in a key step in the fight against breast cancer!
Until then, breast cancer remains an afflication that affects many – including men – and research is pivotal to help cure and, more importantly, prevent it. That’s why, as RIDT, we believe it is important to continue investing in our researchers, who are raising the stakes and giving new hope to patients and family worldwide.
You can be part of this fascinating world of research too by supporting many other researchers in all the faculties of the University of Malta. Please click here for more information on how to donate to research of this kind through the Research Trust (RIDT).