top of page

Flamingo patient's extraordinary journey to raise funds for others with breast cancer.

In a remarkable journey from being diagnosed with breast cancer to running a half marathon fundraiser with your best friends, Project Flamingo patient Cathy Stanley and best friends, The Pink Squad inspired us all!

Not only did she (to date) raise R46,160 to ensure others in her position get the timely treatment they deserve, but she did so only a few days before receiving surgery herself.

Can you describe the journey of your initial diagnosis? What went through your mind? What were your initial thoughts? Was there something about this experience that you’d like to share? 

I had had a mammogram 5 years prior, fibrous tissue was evident, but of no concern. So I left it. Realising my left nipple was inverting and the breast changing shape slowly, I suspected something might be amiss.

The real shocker for me was that the right breast was also cancerous, revealed after the initial mammogram and biopsy. When I got the news that part of the treatment would be a bilateral mastectomy, I was not surprised. My initial thoughts were of telling my loved ones. This has possibly been the hardest part of the process so far. How do you break this sort of news to them? Is it a death sentence? How many years or months? What do I really want to do if I have a limited time left? The diagnosis and treatment news washed over me but didn’t sink in. I think until I have had the op, it will still seem a bit unreal. 

What impact has your diagnosis had on your life, family & friends? 

It has changed the way I perceive my body, realising everything I say, do, eat, watch and think, will have some impact on me. I realise I have a most precious and beloved community who have rallied around and lifted and supported me from the diagnosis. It's remarkable! This community is made up of a diverse range of special ones. I am so humbled, so proud to call them ‘my community’.

What was the catalyst for the Pink Squad journey and raising funds for others to receive timely surgical treatment? 

After being admitted to Groote Schuur on the 15th of April for the pre op preparation (mapping surgical lines on the breasts, dye injected in them and then nil in the mouth from 10 pm), the day before, I waited on my bed for my name to be called for the scheduled bilateral mastectomy op on the 16th April. I realised at about 3.30 pm that my name would not be called. I got the news that my op had been postponed but actually Project Flamingo would be able to fit me in on their Catch Up Surgery Programme in June. Much Whatsapping, a delicious meal and a good night’s sleep, I felt more settled. Brenda (see ‘Who is the Pink Squad’) came up with the idea of running the next 21km race In our area, to raise funds for this amazing group, Project Flamingo. Jen and I know when not to say no to Brenda’s ideas, and okayed this as a brilliant one. The Slave Route Challenge was about 2 weeks before the operation so we could do it! Three of us, for three other women. 

Who is the Pink Squad? And what role have they played in your life? 

Pink Squad aka Supremes (based on the most successful vocal  American all-girl band of the 1960’s) 

@brenda.coomer property principal, motivator, researcher and ideaswoman, cycles as well as runs really well! She also plays Uke in a band and is known to sing along more frequently now. 

@metzerjenny strategic programme director, yup with us as well! She keeps me focused and inspires me to be a bit more consistent! She runs well with a knee brace! Jen plays piano and keyboard, the same band as Brenda. 

@cathy.stanley me. Artist and collaborator, I like to think I bring balance and a realness to the Pink Squad, and a quiet impulsiveness perhaps. Will have to ask them, I’m not in the band. 

"My best friends, we met and bonded like glue, through running, about 12 years ago. Training for and running umpteen long-distance runs over the years certainly reveals your true nature, no facades!"

Such significant besties, our level of calibration of anything is Comrades 2013, where shattered, we all finished in dire conditions. Many tears, nausea, and sheer grit got us through. 

What has changed inside of you since your diagnosis? Do you view life in a particular way? Are there things you’ve let go? Others you might be holding closer? 

My sense of time has changed since the diagnosis. I have been given a second chance at Life, another blank canvas. A clean sheet of paper is both liberating and daunting. You just have to start. Make your mark and then it becomes easier. 

I am seeing with altered eyes, my beloved community are so important to me. Connection, even over Whatsapp is key. My priorities are changing, I am learning to say no, to listen to the me within, to express and honour the fragility of life. 


Do you consider yourself religious or spiritual and has that influenced your experience? 

I am so grateful for all the prayers, blessings, positive vibes, lighting of candles and so many thoughts and wishes I have been surrounded by. I feel loved and lighter.  


What/Who are you most grateful for at this moment? 

Besides Project Flamingo for fitting me into the Catch-up Surgery programme, I am so grateful that I did not have to have chemotherapy before the op.  

"I am blessed by truly amazing people in my life. I am so grateful to my breasts, our imminent separation gives me an extremely precious gift – another chance at living my best life."

What’s your message to those in the arena with you on their Breast Cancer journey? 

‘Let’s journey together’  

From my few encounters with the amazing staff, specialists, interns and doctors, porters and security at Groote Schuur, we are in good hands. Many other women have shared their own personal stories, enlightening me, inspiring me and always encouraging me. Thank you for this. 


bottom of page