WHEN Port Elizabeth resident and mum of two Clarisse Bishop was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, at 32, she felt as if her life had been taken away from her.
She was young, did not smoke or drink and had been healthy all her life. Her baby daughter was 15 months and her son four years old and they needed her, she thought.
That was the moment Bishop decided to fight the disease with everything in her, undergoing a partial breast removal, followed by four months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiotherapy.
Four years later and still cancer-free, Bishop remains in fighting mode as she carries the mutated BRCA-2 gene predisposing her to breast and ovarian cancer.
"I take my health very seriously and as fitness plays a huge role in cancer prevention, I have become a member of Fight Like a Girl, a women's programme at Evolution, a local mixed martial art club," she said.
"This has allowed me to stay physically and mentally fit. Every time I get frustrated or scared – usually around my next oncology check-up – I can just punch it out.
"October is breast cancer awareness month and so my instructor, Andrew Garai, who owns Evolution, asked me and others from our programme to get involved in the making of a Fight Like a Girl calendar to raise funds for breast cancer.
"Photographer Mardee Maree, also a young cancer survivor, has done an incredible job producing this funky calendar, which sends a strong message to young women to take their health seriously.
"Breast cancer is no longer an older women's disease and if caught early, it can be defeated."
Garai said he decided on the project as the Fight like a Girl name was internationally associated with support groups and the fight against cancers.
The calendars will sell for R100 each and proceeds will go towards a local cancer project still to be determined.
"We want the money to go towards helping women in our own city and have been talking to some of the oncology facilities to see where the need is greatest," Garai said.
Bishop pointed out that some patients could not afford the busfare to get to their treatments, "let alone the treatment itself".
Others had to wait till January to start radiotherapy as their medical aids had run out, which in turn compromised their chance of a full recovery, she said.
"Fight Like a Girl wants to donate this money to ease some of the everyday burden for these women, so they don't have to fight more than one battle."
Calendars will be sold next Saturday October 13 at the Dischem entrance of Walmer Park. Alternatively, contact Andrew Garai on 083-334-3324.