Desirée Branovici is one of 42 peer advisors who help spread the word about prevention and early detection of cancer in the Botkyrka area of Stockholm. This is quite a challenging community to reach out to due to widespread economic hardship and language and cultural barriers. Desirée’s own multicultural background and fluency in Swedish, Romanian, Italian, French and English are invaluable assets for this role. Here she explains why she gives up her time to do it.
Years ago, when I was living in Canada, I had a conversation with some friends about cancer. One of my friends said that, according to statistics, 1 in 3 women will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime. The three of us looked at each other and we could all see fear in each other’s eyes: it could be one of us.
What I saw on my friends faces haunted me. Soon after that conversation I promised myself that I will fight this fear with everything I have. At the time I did not have any special knowledge or support for my fight, so I began to read as much as I could about cancer, about health in general. I became aware of how important it is to be informed about cancer. Information helped me address the fear. I started talking to my friends about it, to my work colleagues, to anyone interested and willing to listen.
Years later I moved to Sweden. While studying SFI [Swedish for Immigrants], a cancer survivor and project leader, Arja Leppänen, came to our class. She told us about a new cancer awareness project that she was leading in the nearby Botkyrka area. We could help spread the word about what we can all do to reduce the risks of cancer.
I was excited to have support and guidance from our municipality (kommun) to educate myself and also to reach to other people and help them. Our training was very interesting. The professionals from the Regional Cancer Centre were extremely helpful and engaging. They were happy to answer any questions and ready to follow up on our suggestions. We were given tools such as flyers to reach out to the many different communities in most spoken languages, and also our own personal cards. Arja and all the other people involved were always ready to help us with anything we needed.
“Understanding how a specific culture deals with sickness is important”
Reaching out to people from so many different cultures is no easy task. Speaking different languages and mostly understanding how a specific culture deals with sickness is important. Some cultures are harder to reach out to than others, but I find that a casual approach to the issue always works. For example, talking about healthy food and lifestyle is a subject that anyone is willing to discuss. Who doesn’t want to be healthy and happy?
I also like to talk to people about exposing themselves to unnecessary chemicals. I always get people’s interest and commitment to be more aware of what they are putting in their bodies and to be pro-active about their health. I always try to make them aware that a body well taken care of will help you win any fight, whether you are fighting a flu, an addiction or cancer. If it happens to one of us that has to fight this battle then one of us will always be there to help you make it through.