After months of preparation, former Gunnedah woman Jo Menken, has finally seen the fruits of her labour.
About $15,000 was raised for the Brisbane Breast Bank at the Breast Wishes Ball in Brisbane on Saturday.
This is the second year Jo has organised the ball, which was inspired by the preventative double mastectomy she underwent last year. The 35-year-old has the defective BRCA2 gene, an identified fault or mutation, which is commonly linked to an increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer, or both.
“It was so much work but it was such an awesome night,” Jo said.
“The atmosphere was really warm and the energy, people getting along, celebrating life.
“Seeing people let their hair down and having so much fun makes it all worthwhile for me; that's what I love.”
Members of Jo’s family came along to support her, including her mother Robin, her aunty Anne, and her sisters Amy and Tracey. Robin and Tracey have the BRCA2 gene and have undergone surgery.
Tracey took to the stage to sing I Run for Life, a song written by Melissa Etheridge about her experience with breast cancer. Tracey dedicated the song to Connie Johnson who recently lost her battle with breast cancer.
Jo said her sister’s performance was a highlight of the evening as was an international visit from Nashville’s Rachael Sue Ragland and Laura Wisloski.
“This girl from Nashville, [Rachael], who has the BRCA2 gene came across me on my Instagram and we chatted here and there,” she said.
“She's just had a double mastectomy and recon and she came all the way from Nashville to come to the ball. So we call each other Breasties for Life now. And that's what I love about it - it brings people together over something that's quite scary.”
Jo said Breast Bank staff who attended the ball also invited Rachael to visit the University of Queensland’s Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR).
Breast Bank breast cancer researcher, Amy McCart-Reed, was a guest speaker at the ball.
“I gave an overview of the research that we do here at UQCCR, and also gave an indication of what we might spend any donated funds on – everything from a blood collection tubes, to -80 degrees freezers and sequencing DNA,” Amy said.
Jo said she was thankful to former Gunnedah man David McHugh who helped promote the ball. David’s mother died from breast cancer 14 years ago.