Mastectomy bra, a symbol of empowerment for breast cancer patients
by Việt Dũng
HCM CITY – A mastectomy bra is not only a helpful product that accommodates the condition of breast cancer patients, but is also an empowering item that reminds them to be proud and confident in their bodies.
The Breast Cancer Network Việt Nam (BCNV) launched its Pinkmate bra line last week as part of its 10th anniversary, featuring a catwalk of women battling breast cancer and their loved ones strutting confidently in the bra. The audience’s response could only be described as going wild with happiness and pride.
Many breast cancer patients have to go through medical procedures that leave behind noticeable marks on their bodies, especially mastectomy, which removes a woman’s breast.
Breast cancer patients require bras that accommodate their condition, but lingerie is treated as a sensitive topic in Việt Nam, and many Vietnamese women have been shy about describing their breast cancer condition, leading to difficulties in finding a right bra.
People with “uneven breasts” have had to insert other types of fabric into their bras to maintain their appearance, while others have opted out of wearing a bra to be more comfortable, but then can receive insensitive remarks from other people. Their medical conditions have left them feeling uncomfortable about their own bodies.
So it is no surprise that the women at the BCNV’s event were deeply inspired by the models’ positive energy and felt proud of the models’ bravery.
“I understand the unique loss that women undergoing mastectomy have to endure, and I also really admire their bravery for removing a part of their body to keep on living,” Nguyễn Thuỷ Tiên, co-founder of the non-profit BCNV, said.
Regain natural womanly beauty
The PinkMate bra line is made in Việt Nam, with bras for the general public and for breast cancer patients.
Pinkmate mastectomy bras are designed to be soft and cover up skin conditions left by breast cancer surgery, as well as soft breast pads to help wearers “regain their curves”, according to the BCNV.
The BCNV has researched and worked closely with breast cancer patients for many years to create Pinkmate bras, aiming to improve the life quality of such patients.
Indeed, mastectomy bras are not just small pieces of underwear that are more comfortable to wear; many people see them as a symbol of empowerment, a way for them to regain their natural womanly beauty, and even a companion in their journeys against breast cancer.
Ngọc Hồng, a patient in HCM City who had her left breast removed, said that her Pinkmate bra was very comfortable to wear, and the fabric helps cover up incision marks and melanoma caused by radiotherapy.
Hương Trà, another patient in HCM City and a member of the BCNV, said that bras highlight a woman’s beauty, especially when wearing a traditional áo dài (national costume).
“Mastectomy patients want a specialised bra so that they can go outside in confidence and feel beautiful,” she said.
Profits from the bra sale will be used to offer free bras to low-income breast cancer patients.
Prior to this, the BCNV had also raised funds to buy mastectomy bras from Europe for 700 low-income women in Việt Nam.
The BCNV has been helping over 2,600 breast cancer patients through a wide range of activities, including programmes to raise awareness of the disease, a library of free wigs for rent (with the help of hair donors), and activities to care for the mind and body of patients. It has been making great contributions towards raising the rate of early breast cancer detection and improving the lives of patients.
‘Be more open about bra’
Vietnamese culture typically considers lingerie and body parts such as breasts as “sensitive” and somewhat taboo, which leads to many people being uncomfortable with discussing them openly.
Nguyễn Phương Linh, a woman residing in HCM City’s District 1, told Việt Nam News that the sexualisation of breasts led to many undeserved awkward situations, such as how she feels uncomfortable when a male doctor examines her breasts, even though deep down she knows that is normal.
Many Vietnamese women have been shy about going to doctors to check up on abnormalities in breasts or genitals, which usually leads to late detection of diseases.
The BCNV has organised a contest where participants create online content (including text posts, drawings and videos) to encourage more light-hearted and open discussion about breasts and bras.
Phương Linh said that it was important for these topics to be “de-sexualised”, as people should try to view breasts and related topics in a more open, un-sexualised way, so that more people would be less shy about them. This would result in people being able to discuss medical conditions and lingerie shopping normally.
In Việt Nam, statistics from the Global Cancer Observatory reveal that breast cancer accounts for 25 per cent of cancers in women with nearly 22,000 new cases and more than 9,000 deaths each year.
It is important to encourage people to get breast cancer screenings early, as well as boosting the morale of breast cancer patients to have more confidence in themselves.
Easy access to mastectomy bras or bras designed for breast cancer patients, as well as facilitating an open, positive dialogue regarding breast health and lingerie, are crucial in helping these people fight their battles. VNS
Yoga Song Khoe partners with Kamal Mana Academy to train yoga teachers
HÀ NỘI — Indian Kamal Mana Academy has signed a memorandum of understanding with Việt Nam-based Yoga Song Khoa Academy to share knowledge and experience to bring yoga closer to yoga lovers all over the world.
The document was signed by Vũ Hồng Yến, President of Yoga Song Khoe, and Dr. Kamal (Suresh Kamal Srinivash), General Director of Kaya Mana Academy.
The two academies will join forces to give student professional yoga training.
“We hope Yoga Song Khoe and Kaya Mana will together reach new development targets at the international level and bring wonderful experiences to learners in Việt Nam and all over the world,” Yến said. “Above all, we hope to help more people explore the strength and happiness of yoga.”
Dr. Kamall is a yoga master from India who won the Yoga Brahma Prize in 2015 at the 15th International Ayurveda Conference in the US. He has acted as an advisor of Yoga Alliance International and is an advisor on Ayurveda in Kerala Ayurveda in the US.
Being one of the eight greatest Indian yoga masters in the world, Dr. Kamal started practising yoga at five years old. He has created his own style of yoga called Kryoga, or lessons of yoga Kamal.
He will join a mass yoga performance of 500 people on June 3 and 4 at Vinhomes Ocean Park, Hà Nội, which will be hosted by Yoga Song Khoe Academy to celebrate International Yoga Day on June 21. — VNS
Nature’s bounty: ginseng farm aims to go global
By Công Thành
In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Nguyễn Hữu Quý Khang, 31, a construction engineer, found himself unable to return to his work in Japan, and instead found a temporary job at a Ngọc Linh ginseng farm in Nam Trà My District of Quảng Nam.
He soon fell in love with work on the mountainous ginseng farm, tending and nurturing the ancient medicinal herb believed by some to have almost magical qualities.
Khang’s new role saw him explore the natural conservation of Vietnamese ginseng (Panax vietnamensis), growing strongly and sustainably in the primary forest.
At first he found being away from Japan difficult, but the work on the Sâm Sâm Company ginseng farm soon grabbed all his attention.
“It’s a turning point. I thought I would just be working on the farm while waiting for Japan-Việt Nam air services to resume after the pandemic. However, the wild nature of my homeland soon fascinated me,” Khang said.
“I restarted as a beginner in farming. It was quite different to engineering work that I had experienced in Japan. I loved exploring the co-existence of the flora habitat and ginseng. It was like caring for a newborn baby.”
Khang said he spent most of his time on the farm observing ginseng seeds sprouting. Saplings are very sensitive to any small temperature changes in the foggy mountain air, where sunlight hits for just a few hours each day.
“We built up a scrutiny process to watch the saplings at every moment in the forest canopy farms, while arranging long-term nutrition and pest protection. Ginseng sprouts die if they suffer from plant fungus at any time. Rodents are also a threat,” he said.
As a technical manager of the farm, he also trains local workers on how to develop ginseng as a sustainable crop for the community, rather than lazily making money from illegal logging and hunting.
Khang said the farm had developed on one-hectare pilot plot before expanding as a high-yield business and community joint-venture farm.
Hồ Văn Khuyết, 40, a member of the Xơ Đăng ethnic group in Trà Linh Village, said he was trained in sustainable agricultural practice at the farm for two years.
“Most local villagers lived by exploiting forest products including animal hunting for food in the jungle, but the strict rules of forest protection stopped us from living this life,” Khuyết said.
“We had to do odd jobs in urban areas instead. However, we struggled with poor education and skills in urban and industrial parks. Our forest-based experience was always our best skill.”
He said the ginseng farming project offered an opportunity for ethnic communities to improve their income with their traditional forest knowledge.
“It took me one year to complete training in ginseng farming. We can earn well from working on the ginseng farm, while protecting the forest, our spiritual ‘home’, for future generations,” he said.
In building a national high-quality ginseng brand, Sâm Sâm has grown 500,000 ginseng plants on a 200ha farm in Trà Linh mountainous village.
The company has put into operation the first Ngọc Linh ginseng production facility – a major high-tech processing factory combined with a nursery and research centre – at Tam Thăng Industrial Park in Tam Kỳ City, producing 200,000 capsules and 5 million Ngọc Linh ginseng saplings by in-vitro every year.
The sustainable ginseng farm has been listed as one of 20 safe and one of eight Asian projects jointly assessed and financially supported by the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Dutch Fund for Climate and Development (DFCD).
Experts from the DFCD and WWF-Vietnam recently paid a field trip to inspect technical and financial support for the project. The DFCD has approved a support grant for Sâm Sâm, seeking to scale up its production in one of the country’s poorest regions. The money will help the company to acquire seedlings, seeds, earthworm compost and land for expansion.
The project is aided by the World Wide Fund for Nature Netherlands together with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation to nurture new projects for the investment fund. With the approval of the grant, the WWF plans to sign a 275,000-euro grant agreement with Sâm Sâm.
Huib Jan de Ruijter, senior expert from the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Ban (DEDB), said the project developed by Sâm Sâm offered benefits to the local community, particularly in terms of protecting the forest and mitigating climate change.
Aart Jan Mulder, portfolio manager from DEDB Bank, said the ginseng project was unique in the well-protected primary forest as it helped conserve nature, while creating benefits for both business and the indigenous community while reducing the damage caused by climate change.
Stuart Beavis, regional lead at WWF Asia said: “Sâm Sâm has the potential to be an amazing project. It grows ginseng under the now protected canopy of the forest and works closely with the locals, adding to their skill set and income. The company is also perfectly aligned with the national government’s vision for this commodity.”
The chairman of the company, Nguyễn Đức Lực, said the combined investment of farm-production plant R&D and the in-vitro centre would help build global production chains for the national brand and boost sustainable development of the Ngọc Linh ginseng not only for Quảng Nam, but nationally.
“We have been building a long-term strategy for a national brand of high-quality Ngọc Linh ginseng production from seed selection, planting and harvest, to storage and processing,” Lực said.
He said at least 80 per cent of natural forests were well protected by local farmers who joined the ginseng farm as the plant could only develop well under forest canopy from 1,400m to 2,500m above sea level,” Lực said.
“As ginseng can die by chemical fertiliser, the ginseng farm is fertilised by organic earthworms. The farm will help contribute to Việt Nam’s zero carbon targets.”
The ginseng farm will also be recruiting and training manpower from the Xơ Đăng, Ca Dong and M’ Nông ethnic communities across several local villages, hoping to develop more medicinal herb farms. — VNS
Nursing homes more than a question of cost
by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
Việt Nam has one of the fastest growing ageing populations in the world. In 2019, those above 60 made up 11.9 per cent of the country’s population. This number shall rise to more than 25 per cent in 2050.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, from 2036 Việt Nam shall be classified as an ageing society, where the elderly make up a large and influential part of society.
This is the result of the country’s successful drive to lower birth mortality rates dozens of years ago and the consistent decline in the birth rate.
In about a dozen years, Vietnamese society will have all the issues of an elderly population: lack of a working age population leading to the extension of the retirement age and the needs for healthcare for people of advanced years. More nursing homes are likely to be built.
The longevity of the elderly can be a wonderful blessing for an extended family, where the younger children and grandchildren can take care of their clan’s eldest.
“My grandmother is 104 now,” says Đặng Thắm, a mother of two teenagers. “She’s in great health and as much as I love her, I cannot visit her as much as I could. Once a month is ideal, but I still can’t make it sometimes.”
But her grandmother lives happily at her son’s home, with his family and the adult son’s family, which means the great-grandmother is being taken care of by six other people, including grand children.
A popular Vietnamese saying goes, “A mother can raise 10 children, but 10 children cannot take care of one mother!” At times, this is painstakingly true.
In a recent debate, popular film director Lê Hoàng and actor Quyền Linh spoke on TV about how to take good care of one’s ageing parents.
Quyền Linh prefers the Vietnamese way of taking care of elderly parents at home, living in the love of their children and grandchildren. He feels strongly about taking good care of one’s mother and believes a family shall be cursed if children do not show filial piety to their parents, one of the cornerstone of Vietnamese desired qualities of being a righteous man/woman.
“No, you cannot send your parents to a nursing home if you have a home!” he said.
Lê Hoàng opposed the idea of keeping grandparents at home to stay with their children and grandchildren.
“The elderly must have their own life, their own joys and happiness. Their joys need to go beyond that of their children! If you can afford it, sending your parents to nursing homes can be a relief for both the parents and children,” he said.
The fight can go on forever, as each side has their own reasons and arguments. One can never give a proper answer.
“My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s for more than 10 years,” a friend and middle-aged mother of two told me recently. “She started to have symptoms, and we took her to doctors for help quite early on.”
She had her mother living with their nuclear family for 10 years, having domestic helper at the time, until it became too exhausting for both sides, as the mother did not recognise anyone, nor was she aware of what she was doing.
She resorted to sending her mother to an expensive nursing home, where she was quite well taken care of until she fell and broke her hip.
It was a long, painful journey for the woman, who kept wishing her mother could recognise her again, even just once. The memory-losing mother also kept telling her husband, “Who are you? Why are you so kind to me?”
Many of the elderly say they rather stay home to see their children and grandchildren every day. But some disagree and say they would feel like a burden if they sold their home and moved in with one of their children.
Taking care of ageing parents needs not only love, but also understanding, knowledge about elderly health concerns as well as untiring efforts.
“Having just finished one’s meal, they then say their children didn’t feed them,” is a Vietnamese saying about the decline or loss of short-term memory in the aged. Anyone with elderly parents must bear this in mind. It is important to be patient and loving.
If you are in your 50s and 60s taking care of your parents, it’s already a stretch because you’re still working. If you’re in your seventies taking care of centenarian parents, then it’s a blessing for you. Though in your seventies, you may have more time, your health may not be up to the task.
In a packed room on a busy main road at a small home appliance business, I recently heard a busy woman telling her mother (or in-law) sitting in a wheelchair to move over as she did not have enough room. The house was literally packed up to the ceiling, and the lady in the wheelchair couldn’t move anywhere else. There was a room upstairs, but she wanted to stay downstairs, so she could see other people.
Anyone managing that little space, balancing her business and family while taking care of an elderly person, could lose control and end up being less than exceptionally polite, even to their own mother.
Many would say, send her to a nursing home, where she can be taken care of, meet friends her age and get a health check every day. Children could come and visit when they have time.
If the family can afford nursing home costs, they may choose to do so. The parent may be in better physical health, but not getting to see familiar faces may eventually lead to emotional health issues.
An elderly woman, Thu Phan gave her thoughts about the matter online: “I’m 69 years old now, and I took care of my grandchildren when I retired at 55. When they were little, I took care of them, and when they went to school, I would help them with their homework at night. For me, I feel happy because I have not wasted my life. I feel happy, healthy and useful. But later on, when I get older and need help, whether I’ll get help depends on each person’s blessing.”
Even for the very elderly, a home can have its benefits. They will need to push themselves every day, which will not deteriorate their health but, on the contrary, give more strength, not only to cope with everyday life, but also to strengthen them generally, as long as they are willing to try.
And for us children, we only wish we can do our best to earn enough money to have our parents living with us when they want to, and also be able to afford a nursing home for them if they want it.
Đức Dũng, a middle-aged man, added to the online discussion, saying. “I’ve been assisting my elder sister to take care of our mother, who has had Alzheimer’s for 14 years and has been bedridden for seven. It is my wish to take care of my mother and be by her side when she leaves us. But my wife and I have been saving so that later, we can both go to a nursing home because we don’t want our two daughters to suffer taking care of us.
“Then if they insist, we would be thankful to God and to our children. It would be wonderful if they can manage their own families and us. But as our grandparents said, ‘Each tree bears its own flower, each family has its own issue’.” VNS
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