Going through some archive boxes in our London office basement our Press team happened on some photographs of our founder and first volunteer Betty Westgate MBE.
The Mastectomy Association
Betty founded was what then known as the Mastectomy Association on Christmas Eve 1973 five years after her own diagnosis of breast cancer. The name later changed to Breast Care and Mastectomy Association of Great Britain in 1987 finally becoming Breast Cancer Care in 1994.
In the beginning Betty ran the organisation on a voluntary basis from her home in Croydon South London providing information giving talks and connecting people with breast cancer. Eventually funding was secured and the Mastectomy Association was able to develop its full potential although Betty continued to make ‘cumfies’ (soft breast prostheses) alongside her husband Jim for many years after.
Sharing experiences making connections
Betty was a passionate advocate of shared support. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer it simply wasn’t a subject that was discussed in the wider world or with friends and family. She helped to connect women who had a shared experience and she campaigned to make it a topic which could and should be discussed.
What Betty did over 40 years ago by talking about her experience is what we still do through our Someone Like Me service today; a volunteer able to talk to and support someone else with breast cancer through their treatment and beyond.
Although the organisation has grown and developed over the years our principles have remained the same: to provide information and support to anyone affected by breast cancer.
Betty lived for more than 30 years following her diagnosis and died in 2000. The photographs are a great reminder of Betty herself; Breast Cancer Care stands as a great testament to her tenacity and passion to make things better for people facing breast cancer.
You can read Betty’s obituary on The Guardian website.