Five women all going through their own breast cancer journeys launched a charity in 1992 to raise money for a new world class research centre in London as well as awareness into the disease.
Now, the group is celebrating its 30th anniversary - and the incredible sum of more than £1.9m they have raised through events including annual bra dashes, New Year’s Day dips, sleepovers on top of Snaefell, and a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro.
They were originally called Breakthrough Breast Cancer Isle of Man Groupand changed their name to Breast Cancer Now, following a merger between Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Campaign.
Two of the founders, Barbara Thorn and Jan Brooks MBE, are still very involved with the group.
Jan said: ‘In the 30 years since we started the charity, we have seen major changes and improvements in breast cancer in the island.
‘As well as fundraising for much needed research, we have raised awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early diagnosis, campaigned for new treatments and worked with health professionals to enhance the care for breast cancer patients.
‘I am delighted to see the charity, formerly Breakthrough Breast Cancer, go from strength to strength and we thank the public and health professionals for all their support over the past 30 years.’
Angie Aire, who has led the group for 18 years, got involved after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and says the volunteers are just as passionate now as they were then.
‘Following my own breast cancer diagnosis 20 years ago at the age of 40 and with three young children at home this came as a great shock to me and my family,’ she said.
‘I was a fit and healthy mum, with a career, volunteering with my children’s clubs, and generally always on the go.
‘Once my treatment both here on island and in the UK had finished I felt I wanted to give something back so I joined the then Breakthrough Breast Cancer Isle of Man Group to help fund vital and first class research into this disease.’
Their fundraisers for breast cancer research have included stringing bras across Douglas promenade - three times - on a stormy day in 2002.
A group of 14 trekkers climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2010, raising £73,000. Two Snaefell Sleepovers - in 2014 and this year - raised £62,000.
And the Bra Dashes - held annually in Douglas, Ramsey, Peel and Castletown - have raised more than £200,000.
Volunteers give talks in the workplace, schools and to clubs based on the charity’s ‘Touch Look Check’ campaign, which encourages women to regularly check their breasts.
Research, treatments and screening programmes have helped change the picture for breast cancer over the last 30 years.
‘I think to have received a diagnosis 30 years ago would have been a much more worrying time for the patient than it may be today,’ Angie said.
‘Survival rates were much lower then. Statistics show that the survival of this cancer has doubled in the last 40 years and that’s partly down to understanding the some 20 different types of breast cancer, how they should be treated individually and with the most effective treatment.
‘Breast screening and an early diagnosis has also proved to save many more lives.’
Breast Cancer Now is 18 years into its Generations Study with 113,000 women into the genetics of breast cancer. It is hoped scientists will gain a better understanding of why some people develop breast cancer and what causes it.
Breast Cancer Now believes the future of breast cancer can change so that by 2050 everyone diagnosed with the disease lives – and is supported to live well.
Asked what this would mean to her, Angie said: ‘I would be forever grateful to all our scientists for their research into more effective and less invasive treatments keeping patients alive allowing them to live their lives with family and loved ones.’
Angie thanked everyone who has supported the group: ‘May I thank most sincerely our wonderful Isle of Man residents who donate, support and give so generously to our charity be it their time, funds, sponsorship or their services, it is truly appreciated.
‘I’d also like to thank each and every one of our Isle of Man group of volunteers who are so dedicated to the cause of breast cancer, they work hard but we are greatly rewarded in the friendship of our pink ladies and have lots of fun along the way.’