Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or, A Plethora of Boobs

As everyone knows, October is World Breast Cancer Awareness Month (which is a mouthful), or Muaji i Ndërgjegjesimit për Kancerit të Gjirit in shqip (gesundheit). 

In other words, I've never touched so many boobs in such a short period of time.

It's been very fulfilling to have a (relatively) busy schedule. We've done presentations for teachers out in the villages, in the Bashkia, in the Tregu i Madhe (a big warehouse market), and today at the Kineteatra and Victory School. We showed two short films and did a powerpoint presentation today at the Vace Zela Kineteatra, and over 130 women showed up (score!). Representatives from the D.Sh.P, the Bashkia, the Prefecture, two public high schools, and many community members attended. Of course nothing goes off without a hitch, and so I ended up reading the powerpoint because no one else wanted to. There's five of us on this team. Eighty percent are Albanian. And somehow it landed in my lap to present, after a quick little game of "nose goes" in the dark while the audience waited. 

I know. My paint skills are killer.

Regardless of my kindergartner's vocabulary, I think it went pretty well. It certainly served to bring attention to the topic in the community, and the videos we showed were concise, clear, and very helpful.

Later this afternoon, I went to Victory School to give a small presentation to the English teachers there. Lo and behold, there was a whole slew of church ladies who showed up - the more the merrier, but of course I'd only prepared stuff in English because I thought I was presenting to English speakers. Ha. Never assume.* Yay for winging it shqiptare style.

(Actually, I felt horrible and it kinda sucked because this is such an important topic. About 185,000 European women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and around 44,000 die from it. It's becoming more common among Albanian women - although that seems to also be contributed slightly to better reporting - and is by far the number one cancer killer for that population. These women need and deserve the best health information and treatment, and they need it articulated clearly in their own language. I just remind myself that I'm better than nothing.)

I make it very clear to everyone that I'm not a doctor nor a nurse, and that my only qualifications are my Women's Studies and Public Health background, but I've still had women come up to me and ask my opinion about questionable lumps. I've done all the presentations but one with my counterparts and so generally ask them to intervene, but at tonight's presentation I ended up hitting second base on quite a few ladies. In some cases, it was funny ("Ma'am, I would hope that's hard there, it's your rib. Not a tumor.") but in one case my heart just fell in my stomach and all I could say was, "Please see a doctor asap." And it kills me that I don't know who to send them to or what to recommend, or that I can't even promise they'll receive the help they need. I can only keep telling them to go to the Poliklinika (public health clinic), cross my fingers, and hope for the best.


*...because when you assume it makes an ass out of u and me. 

Eriola (sociologist), Moza (nurse), & Soida (psychologist) on our way home from presenting in Ballagat. 
Don't be deceived. I'm standing in a hole. I'm actually a monster next to them in real life. 

Soida, Gesti (nurse), and Moza. Size is slightly more to scale. 

1 comment:

  1. Great job Mary! You are doing exactly what you should be doing with your life. Giving of your time to bring heath awareness to other women is remarkable. Remember, everything is the way it is suppose to be at this given time. I am so proud of you. Love, Mom