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Volunteer Selflessly Helps Women Who Have Had Breast Cancer

Volunteer Selflessly Helps Women Who Have Had Breast Cancer

Local Karitane resident Tonelle Horner is a facilitator for Encore, a free programme run by YWCA Auckland that helps women who have had breast cancer deal with the physical and emotional effects of treatment. She will soon be holding another Encore programme in Mosgiel, which is free to join for all women who have ever been affected by breast cancer.

A staggering one in nine Kiwi women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. Encore offers spiritual, mental, and physical support for the large percentage of the population that is diagnosed with breast cancer. Those who have attended the Encore programme love it, because it helps them along a long and exhausting journey with cancer.

Encore is part of YWCA Auckland’s rich history of empowering women. It helps women to take ownership of their health through gentle floor based and hydrotherapy exercises specifically designed to increase range of motion, reduce discomfort in affected areas and reduce or manage the potential risk or existing symptoms of lympoedema. Encore is designed for women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer, whether two months or twenty years ago.

When Tonelle went on maternity leave several years ago, she had no intention of giving up work. Instead, she took the time off as an opportunity to volunteer with Encore. “I used to work as an administrator for YWCA Aotearoa, and heard about the Encore programme that way. I knew that I wanted to use my Bachelor of Physical Education and leadership skills to help these amazing women,” says Tonelle.

It’s a common experience for women with breast cancer to feel alone and isolated during the process. That’s part of what makes Encore so successful - it brings together women who have all had thoughts, feelings, and experiences that no one else can quite comprehend.

Tonelle is pleased to have seen many lives transformed during the eight week Encore programmes. “I remember there was one lady who was very nervous about coming along. At first she brought a support person along, because she didn’t feel comfortable. But by about the third week, she was so settled and integrated into the group that she didn’t need the support person anymore.”

Tonelle recently completed her fourth Encore programme as a facilitator, and is looking forward to a fifth programme coming up soon. “It’s a beautiful facility, and a fantastic opportunity for any woman who has experienced breast cancer, especially because Encore is free. I’d really recommend it.”


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