A South African Success Story: Rita

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In 2010, LIVESTRONG initiated a pilot campaign in South Africa and Mexico that will seek to raise awareness of the global cancer burden and reduce the stigma associated with cancer through culturally relevant and targeted messaging. Please consider helping us continue our work by making a donation during the Break the Silence campaign from now through the end of June.

David and Rita: Survivors who have shared their stories through the Cancer Anti-Stigma Initiative

People are still struggling with it,? says Rita, a two time cancer survivor referring to cancer stigma. ?Even my friend who is going through surgery didn’t tell me that she hascancer. She is afraid that I will tell her boyfriend.? Rita explains.

Rita’s family and friends have watched her come close to death while fighting cancer. And yet, one of Rita?s closet friends Jane who has seen her beat this disease more than once is afraid to talk to Rita about her own battle with cancer. ?Stigma,? Rita says shaking her head ?It is all about the stigma.?

Cancer stigma in South Africa has a stronghold that must be broken through consistent efforts to educate the public on the fact that cancer can be beaten. This is the aim of the Cancer Anti-Stigma Initiative, presented by LIVESTRONG and implemented by John Snow Inc (JSI), which works to reduce cancer-related stigma through culturally-relevant and targeted messaging that raises awareness of the global cancer burden. By collaborating with local cancer organizations and encouraging survivors to tell their stories, the Initiative disseminates knowledge and awareness messages needed to successfully confront fears and misconceptions about stigma in the South African public.

Rita’s story is being aired both on radio and on TVs in clinics across South Africa and she has been a keynote speaker at several of the Initiative?s events. The impact of her story is clear. After hearing Rita on the radio and seeing her featured in a newspaper article, Rita’s grandmother’s friend called her to seek advice about a pain in her breast. Additionally, a traffic policeman approached Rita, after hearing her on the radio, acknowledging that he never knew that Rita had cancer.

The outcome of these interactions? The woman who called about the pain in her breast was encouraged to go to a doctor, was found to have breast cancer, had surgery and today is living a healthy and productive life. The policeman after learning more about cancer from Rita, then proceeded to talk to two other friends about the issue of cancer. And as the saying goes, then they told two friends. Rita is opening eyes to the fact that cancer affects everyone: including the person you would never expect.

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