In recent months, our Qups have traveled to various foreign destinations. Enthusiastic Brand Ambassadors have ensured that the Qups are now available in Belgium, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Who are these women and what are their experiences with the Qups in an international setting? Simone shares her story about bringing home Qups to the Caribbean.
Photo: Rosoriginal photography
Bon bini, my name is Simone and in 2021 we moved to Curaçao, or Dushi Kòrsou as we call it. My husband Ton was stationed there by Dutch Government. We’ve lived in the Caribbean earlier and know the islands well. Every (island) country has its specific vibe, culture and language. People are very proud of it. In March I became a Brand Ambassador for ProudBreast and I work for Curaçao, Aruba, Bonaire, Sint Maarten, Saba and Statia.
How did you become involved with ProudBreast?
In 2020 my mother Trudy was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her operation, she wanted a light, comfortable breast prosthesis and found ProudBreast. After two years Trudy is still very happy with her Qups. Because of my mom’s positive experiences, I became a fan of ProudBreast myself.
When my parents came to Curaçao for a couple of months, I looked for an oedema therapist and found Guta De Lannoy. My mother received oedema therapie by her every week and we both agree she’ s such an amazing woman. This is how Guta became familiar with the Qups and she was immediately enthusiastic. The Qups are perfect for women living in a tropical climate. In Curaçao the traditional silicone prosthesis is usually offered. They are not always comfortable, especially during the summer when we have really hot temperatures.
How did you bring the Qups to Curaçao?
In March my daughter and I visited Clary and Ienke in Deventer. This was so much fun and they were just as excited as we were. They gave me the sample box and we flew back to Curaçao with the Qups in our suitcases. With brochures, magazines and Qups on the passenger seat, I literally drove around the island to provide information to general physicians, physiotherapists, oedema therapists and breast cancer survivors. Finally, through the Princess Wilhelmina Foundation we managed to offer the SoftQup in Curaçao .
Currently, only the Princess Wilhelmina Foundation offers breast prostheses and prosthetic bra’s. Breast cancer survivors have to rely on one organization and we really wanted to give women more options. So…….drum roll….we are going to expand!
By October, the Qups can also be purchased at lingerie store Curves & Hips. It’s just amazing that entrepreneur Angie van Campen wants to add the Qups to her assortment. She’s also an agent for the prosthesis brands AnaOno, Leonisa and various – more regular – lingerie brands. Women will soon be able to decide for themselves whether they wear Qups in a prosthetic bra or in a ‘normal’ bra. We find this freedom of choice very important. New fitting centers will open soon so women in Curaçao can see, feel and try the Qups with a trained fitting center professional.
What is it like for women in Curaçao after being diagnosed with breast cancer?
In the Caribbean, cancer in general is still a taboo. You don’t talk about it, not even to your closest family members. Women who are diagnosed and survived breast cancer often feel isolated.
At the end of March I had an meeting with a powerful, local lady who had a unilateral mastectomy in January. We had a cappuccino together and talked about the process from discovering the lump to her recovery. She told me that she is open and transparent about her experiences. But with the exception of her husband and children, no one asks how she is doing. People literally give her the ‘silent treatment’. We would like to stop the taboo because it causes unnecessary grieve and loneliness. Of course, it’s an emotional process after being diagnosed with breast cancer. But breast cancer survivors and warriors strongly feel they want to be treated similarly to other women. In addition, it is important that information about breast cancer, treatment and aftercare is easily accessible to everyone on the island.
You say ‘We would like to stop the taboo’. Who do you mean by we?
Since becoming a Brand Ambassador I have met a number of women to talk about their experiences. I really wanted to know what they needed. After several meetings we concluded that medical care in Curaçao is quite good. But there is still much room for improvement in regards to information, communication and aftercare. Together and in collaboration with the hospital’s oncology clinic, we will investigate what needs to be improved. We also feel it’s important to discuss the subject regularly via local and social media.
Do your plans involve just Curaçao?
No absolutely not! I went to Sint Maarten to introduce the Qups there as well. It’s not easy for women in Sint Maarten to obtain a breast prosthesis. Since the Covid pandemic, the last store that offered prosthetics has been closed.
This is why we flew to Sint Maarten in August, again with the Qups in our suitcases. It was the first time for me since we left at the end of 2017. To me it felt like coming home. The mountains, the clear blue bays and the chaotic traffic at the end of the day, all very familiar. And much is improved. The blue tarpaulins on the roofs to stop the rain (a familiar sight after Hurricane Irma) are thankfully gone. But there are still places on the island where Irma’s damage is clearly visible.
And it was a successful trip: it looks like it will be possible to offer the Qups from October in Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius. The Positive and Elektralyets Foundations and Benu Pharmacy are going to help.
In October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month we will introduce ProudBreast and the Qups. First of all we will inform women about the Qups. We will open several fitting centers in Sint Maarten and also on Saba and Statia. But we will involve general physicians, medical specialists and therapists as well. We even plan to apply for subsidies to provide free Qups to women with breast cancer who don’t have health insurance.
What drives you and why are you committed?
When you live abroad for a couple of years, you realize that people living in the Netherlands are accustomed to so many things . We are used to a high standard of living and consider this as ‘normal’. When in fact it’s special if you compare this to other countries.
In the Caribbean part of the Dutch Kingdom many people live in poverty and as an expat you’re regularly confronted by the situation. Ton and I think it is important to contribute to the community and help people who are less fortunate. This is why I worked for the Sint Maarten Aids Foundation. In Curaçao I combine working as a Brand Ambassador with my volunteering at the Princess Wilhelmina Foundation. We like to dispel the cliché that as a Dutch expat, you sit under a palm tree drinking cocktails all day long.