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“I Girasoli” next to oncological patients

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“I Girasoli” aims to direct women diagnosed with cancer towards centres of excellence. This Association for Social Promotion, founded to support oncological patients, is chaired by Benedetta Cerasani and operates in Avezzano near L’Aquila. It encompasses two areas of intervention: on one hand, it focuses on reintegrating minors who have committed minor offences into society, while on the other hand, it focuses on oncology.

«Our Association took its first steps in 2004. We first delved into the world of oncology in 2015 when my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer – explains Cerasani -. At that moment, we realised how few resources and how little information was available in the Marsica area for women facing similar situations».

“I Girasoli” supports both women and men from the beginning. Starting from diagnosis, patients have free access to the Association. «We follow patients in choosing wigs, and in the case of young women, we guide them towards the use of skin patches. We stand by them throughout the entire journey, even when they undergo procedures like inserting PICC lines with the use of PICC covers and in selecting mastectomy bras. Additionally, we assist people in deciphering information, messages from doctors that may provoke anxiety and fear», explains the President.

The benefits of fencing for oncological patients

Benedetta Cerasani, president of the “I Girasoli” association

According to studies conducted in Turin and in Switzerland’s Canton Ticino, fencing has many benefits for patients who have undergone breast cancer surgery. It’s a sport that aids both the operated arm and the other.

«For women with breast cancer, there’s a wonderful adapted fencing project. Three weeks after surgery, women step onto the piste and engage in ten fencing sessions with us, during which we manage to prevent the onset of lymphoedema – says Cerasani -. Often, following a mastectomy or quadrantectomy, there’s a tendency not to use one arm at the expense of the other. Fencing helps rebalance strengths, so we use the sabre on the operated arm while a plastic fist is used on the other, aiding in maintaining mobility in both limbs».

Collaborations and challenges

Among the challenges the Association has had to face over the years is that of engaging numerous professionals from various parts of Italy. Their presence is crucial in driving and supporting the sport’s project. “I Girasoli” boasts a collaboration with the association “Atleti al tuo fianco” with Dr. Alberto Tagliapietra, a psycho-oncologist who participates by providing remote assistance.

For the surgical aspect dedicated to breast care, the Association also collaborates with professor Alessandro De Luca, along with all the professionals in the Marsica area who are affiliated with Avezzano Hospital.

«We send women to undergo chemotherapy cycles in the oncology department of Avezzano Hospital – the President continues -. What we always say is that, surgically, they can choose where to go, but receiving treatment near home or even at home is better because it’s simpler».

Normalising oncological patients’ lives

Prevention works when people are aware. It needs to be widespread and put at the forefront. “WomenSWomen” is an event by “I Girasoli”, created with the Hight Patronage of the Region of Abruzzo. On April 28th, 2024, at the gymnasium of the “Collodi Marini” school, Via Sandro Pertini, and on May 24th-25th, 2024, at the Tucci Hall, TSRM Order, Via Don Minzoni 27, in Avezzano, there be a double meeting focusing on understanding and forecasting the needs and necessities of self-care and caring for others. That’s just one of the many initiatives to raise awareness regarding the importance of prevention that the Association is carrying out in 2024, the year marking its twentieth anniversary.

As a matter of fact, “Health Girasoli” will start in May. The project aims to create the first

centre dedicate to women’s health, addressing all aspects. «It’s crucial for us to implement it because, after Covid, women have drifted away from preventive care for various reasons – explains Cerasani -. We will go into the squares, enter school to engage young people and convey the idea that getting vaccinated against HPV can also help lower the high rates of cervical cancer in Italy».

The President of “I Girasoli” emphasises how this project aims to involve more young women in the importance of undergoing regular and timely check-ups. All of this is to make prevention seem like a normal part of everyday life, mitigating the fear that often accompanies such journeys. «It will be a centre dedicated specifically to women’s health because by improving a woman’s health, we improve the health of an entire system», concludes Cerasani.


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