Cuppa for CANSA – Catherine’s story

What was my motivation for co-hosting a Le Creuset Cuppa for CANSA?

On 27 June 2014 off I went for my routine yearly mammogram. In truth, I was only going to boost my Vitality points. I had been all clear a year before, had no family history, didn’t smoke, breast fed all three of my children, had never felt a lump… and cancer happens to other people doesn’t it?

Even when the Radiologist informed me that I needed a biopsy, immediately, because “we have seen something” it didn’t occur to me that it could be The Dreaded “C”. “It’ll just be fibrous tissue” I told myself.

On 1 July, a date etched in my mind forever, I received my results, over the phone, whilst sitting on my own in a Pick n Pay car park. I was blindsided, unable to speak coherently, in floods of tears. When I phoned my mom she told me not to move, jumped in her car immediately and came to find me. She would not let me drive off until I was calm and safe to drive.

After an unsuccessful attempt to perform an adequate Lumpectomy, I was further distraught to find out that I required Chemotherapy until the end of the year, followed by a Mastectomy early in the New Year.

In the surgeon’s rooms that day I met a wonderful woman who was celebrating the end of her Chemotherapy. “Look on this as a journey” she said. “But, remember, you will not travel this journey alone.”

She was right. I am overwhelmed by the support that I have received from my wonderful family, my friends, both old and new, and from people I hardly knew.

Knowing how blessed I am to be surrounded by “My Angels”, I started to think about the people who are not so fortunate. I wanted to help.

What could I do?

Also knowing that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought that there must be an event that I could participate in? I went onto the CANSA website and saw Cuppa for CANSA. At the same time, a friend/colleague of mine emailed me to see if I would be interested in hosting a CUPPA. I wasn’t sure, would I have the energy, mid Chemo? I was full of doubts, but Brenda is one driven lady! My sister, Debbie, with so much on her plate and having taken me and my sons into her home for the duration of my Chemo, was unable to say no.

So the plan was hatched on September 15 and we settled on 26 October as a date. Armed with Brenda’s efficiency and organisational skills, Debbie’s creative flair and style and my desire to bring women together for a great cause, we began the process of organising our very own Cuppa for CANSA themed “50 Shades of Pink.”

We decided on a suggested amount as a donation for those who accepted and set about securing prizes for a raffle. Offers of stunning prizes poured in from amazing friends and contacts. Around 80 people were invited.

There was still so much to do! Tables, chairs, crockery, food, drinks, décor, raffle tickets… and so little time.

Brenda and her mom generously offered their home as a venue. We dare not even think about bad weather! Debbie took control of décor. My mom and aunt were tasked sewing bunting and table runners. We decided to cater ourselves, with a lot of help. We received offers of complimentary teas, crockery, cutlery and table cloth hire, a gift for everyone as they arrived, help setting up and clearing away. It was overwhelming.

With over 60 acceptances, The Day arrived. A perfect sunny day with a gentle breeze. Phew! The courtyard, already looking stunning with pots of flowers, pink bunting, pink paper lanterns, pink plant pots and flowers. The tables were laden with pink bounty, and the guests began to arrive.

The place soon buzzed with the chatter and laughter of ladies, all dressed in pink, and the sound of corks popping as a welcome drink of pink bubbles was offered. Raffle tickets were sold, people, some of whom I knew well, some I barely knew, and some I was meeting for the first time greeted me with hugs, kisses and encouragement. My sister surprised us with a Wishing Tree and invited guests to write a wish for anybody battling with cancer. She also made a speech which brought more than a few tears to lots of eyes.

There were three other cancer survivors there, all of them glowing so proud of themselves and their survivor status. Two mothers were there who had lost children to cancer, and one was a mother of a child in remission from leukemia.

We managed to raise over R8 000 by the end of the day towards our goal of R10 000. Donations are still trickling in from those who couldn’t make it, and by December we will most certainly reach our target.

My gratitude for all those who contributed. The feedback from all who attended has been wonderful.

I am so thrilled that CANSA will benefit from our efforts and that cancer sufferers will gain the support that is so essential for them to beat this disease.

Selfishly though, I feel that I have gained the most from this experience. I have gained new friends, confidence, strength and courage. I have had reaffirmed that I am blessed with love in abundance.

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