As the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation celebrates the opening of a Kowloon health centre, its chairman shares her inspiring story

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Photo: Courtesy of the HKBCF

“When you’ve gone through the surgery, the treatments, and you're finally healthy, how do you give back to society?” This is the question that Eliza Fok, chairman of the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation (HKBCF), answers through her work.

As a breast cancer survivor, she's dedicated her life to giving Hong Kong women the same kind of support she received during her own battle.

“The disease has affected so many—our mothers, wives, sisters, close relatives and friends. It’s the number one cancer afflicting women in Hong Kong,” says Fok, who has seen the growth of breast cancer firsthand through her role as HKBCF's chairman for the last seven years.

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Partnering with Ferragamo

Fok's passion for helping others is something she shares with Massimo Ferragamo, chairman of Ferragamo USA, whose company is involved with similar projects tackling breast cancer in the United States.

Ferragamo’s Tuscan winery held the Castiglion del Bosco Charity Gala in Hong Kong last November, where HKBCF was the primary beneficiary.

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Eliza Fok and Massimo Ferragamo at the Castiglion del Bosco Charity Gala (Photo: Courtesy of Castiglion del Bosco)

Through an auction of a limited number of Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2010 with a specially designed Zodiac Rooster label by contemporary artist Shao Fan, the gala successfully raised funds for the HKBCF Jockey Club Breast Health Centre that opens in Kowloon this month.

Why Kowloon? The HKBCF primarily targets lower income groups, making Kowloon a fundamental area for which they're eager to bring their breast screening and patient support services to.

Services for patients and survivors

The HKBCF is Hong Kong’s first non-profit charitable organisation that addresses the growing risk of breast cancer, which it does by providing an array of free services to both breast cancer patients and survivors. These services range from screenings and counselling to comfort packets and informational books. 

To date, HKBCF has provided 14,000 free mammograms and consults around 700 women per year, which was 20 percent of the 3,500 cases reported in total in 2016. In addition to counselling and medical services, Fok also runs a registry containing data from 18,000 women that both patients and surgeons can refer to.

Read more: Jo Soo-Tang of HKAHF

“By grouping patients, they find that they're not that unfortunate and they’re not alone," explains Fok. "When you're at home, you don’t want to tell your family members and you don’t want them to get worried. But when you come here, it’s a comradeship.”

Support groups and mentorship

Support groups also organise activities that range from qi gong and Chinese kungfu to trail walking in the mountains, which help patients and survivors immensely with relaxation.

Fok finds the mentorship program, where patients are assigned a survivor who serves as their mentor, particularly impactful.

“I’m a survivor of 12 years, [and] when I go there, people think, ‘Wow, a survivor!;" she says. "'She’s still healthy, she’s still thriving and still has so many meaningful things. After my treatment, I can be like her.’”

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The groundbreaking ceremony of the HKBCF Jockey Club Breast Health Centre (Photo: Courtesy of HKBCF)

Despite all the work she's doing, however, Fok says that it is never enough.

“There are so many things to be improved in different areas of service,” she said. “I still want to do more for young survivors. They think about how their boyfriends look at them. They have very low self-esteem.”

Summing it up in one short statement, she says, “I have a heart that’s grateful, and I want to help.”

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