Mandalas and multicolored flowers hide the scars of breast cancer.
Regardless of age or measures, six women who went through mastectomies parade showing their breasts in a commercial plane that flies over the Andes of Ecuador.
In the aisle of a Boeing 737-500 of the local airline Aeroregional, Blanca Rosero and her companions open their white blouses to discover their intervened busts, which graduate them as cancer survivors of greater incidence among Ecuadorians.
“We want to give a motivation to all people because cancer does not see ages, or that we are white or black,” says Rosero in the middle of the trip that takes about 50 minutes.
This 66-year-old housewife shows the sunflower surrounded by wild roses that covers her chest to “motivate” self-examination and “save lives.” “I am not ashamed,” he says.
The air parade is part of the Pinktate campaign of the Ecuadorian Youth Against Cancer Foundation.
The initiative promotes early detection and, although the activity on the plane is exceptional, they seek that every month emblematic places in Ecuador are painted pink, a color that represents the fight against the disease.
The breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Ecuador, according to the Ministry of Health. In 2017, 670 people died from this condition, reflecting a mortality rate of 3.99 per 100,000 inhabitants.
This disease took 627,000 people in the world in 2018, according to the World Health Organization. In the same year, there were 2,787 new cases in Ecuador.
Rosero was diagnosed four years ago with aggressive cancer. “I heard about cancer and it seemed so far away, but one day when I took a bath, I realized that I had a ball in my left breast,” he recalls.
Rosero’s permanent smile disappears when he remembers the impact it caused him to see children for the first time in the chemotherapy room of a Quito hospital.
And she tears up just thinking that her six little grandchildren (“three little women and three little boys”) had to live that experience.
Lourdes Álvarez, 33, suffered the ablation of both breasts. On a scar appears a purple lotus flower, painted and decorated with bright sequins, made, like the others, by Colombian makeup artist Camilo Mideros.
His story began a year and a half ago, after “a little ball of a centimeter, apparently fat, grew seven times in size in five months” in his breast.
“The first prognosis was two months of life because some parts of my body were affected, but I’m still here after three surgeries, and I’m missing two that are already scheduled,” he says.
Álvarez is another of the many “survivors of breast cancer”, as defined by Young Against Cancer, whose campaign also included that the night of return from the flight from Loja, the control tower of the airport that serves Quito looked pink.
During the flight the women encouraged and explained the self-examination. “We are still here, fighting and sweeping with all the doctors’ forecasts,” Álvarez tells AFP.
His two daughters aged eight and fourteen are “the engines” of his life in the battle against cancer. “They are the ones that push me every day not to give up, not to throw in the towel,” he says.
Dayana Patiño, 23, is the youngest of the group, who also fulfills the dream of traveling by plane for the first time.
“It scares me,” he says as he shifts before takeoff to sit next to Rosero, who tries to reassure her: “Nothing happens, trust in God,” he says.
Patiño’s message, diagnosed five months ago, triggers applause from the passengers.
We must “have that courage to move forward and love oneself as it is: without a breast or with a breast.”