The death of one woman is helping prevent the loss of so many more thanks to her daughter, who is working to provide free bus rides for women in need of mammograms who can’t get to their appointments.
Brenda Nasr, from Brombrough, England, has had several close family members diagnosed with breast cancer. One of those family members was her mother, Florence Cliffe, who succumbed to the disease in 2004, at the age of 77.
“My mum had a lump, it was removed. Having had her lump removed she then had to have her left breast removed. I remember being in the room when the doctor told my mum they did not get all the cancer out. I fainted, I hit the floor,” says Brenda.
After her mother’s death, Brenda made it her life’s mission to make sure women in one of the most disadvantaged areas of Liverpool had access to breast cancer screening opportunities so that they’d have a better chance of catching the cancer early and being able to survive it.
“I absolutely believe in breast screening,” says Brenda, who has never had the disease but is a survivor of uterine cancer. “If there is a problem and you get screening, it can be sorted. If you want to see your children and your grandchildren grow up, you owe it to yourself to get it sorted because if you don’t look after yourself, how can you look after your children?”
Brenda started a campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer and get more women transportation to mammogram appointments. She approached the postcode lottery, NHS England, and other organizations in an attempt to find a way to get free bus passes for these women, at first to no avail.
“I was fed up going everywhere,” she says. “They were probably hoping I would just give up, but that was not the case.”
But then—a breakthrough. A local housing company volunteered to produce breast cancer screening pamphlets and provide 100 free bus passes to each practice in the Picton area. Since then, things have only been getting better.
“These passes can help those who would otherwise be unable to afford it travel to their appointments and could see multiple benefits including cost savings for the NHS by decreasing missed appointments and helping to detect any issues as early as possible,” says Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor. “It may also build up people’s confidence and encourage them to use the bus more often, which will bring long-term economic and environmental benefits to the city region.”
Since the campaign started, Brenda has increased the number of women in her area going to screening regularly from 53 percent to 75 percent. She’s also secured free bus rides for women in need and a translating service so she can send out letters in 10 different languages about the services available at Broadgreen Hospital.
“Breast screening was really really low. I was looking at ways how this could be increased,” says Brenda. “We have got to overcome language barriers, culture, and there’s lots of poverty. If you have not got your own transport, it’s not easy to get to Broadgreen Hospital for an appointment. It’s two buses, costing about £5, or it’s about £9 in a taxi from Picton.”
Despite being 69 years old, Brenda doesn’t plan to stop her efforts anytime soon and wants to focus on awareness for cervical cancer next.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?