Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Light a candle against cancer

Published:Wednesday | May 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM

I've written about her before, my friend Jihan Cooke. She's the dance teacher in Mandeville I had spoken about in my December 2014 column, 'Kingston is not Jamaica'. She had a dance school there of just under 100 little pumpkins and was introducing them to the beauty and discipline of the performing arts. She herself graced stages both here and abroad. And graceful she was.

At 36 years old, Jihan now dances on some other plane. She passed away after a rahtid fight with cancer. Her death has made me question everything I know about who contracts the disease. A professional dancer most her life, her pint-size body was chiselled for the gods.

Jihan was always particular about how she fed herself, keeping sugars, junk and excesses indulgence far away. Jihan was quick to tell you to drink your water. And still she got cancer.

It leaves me confused.

This year for Relay for Life, I will buy a luminaria candle in memory of Jihan.

Luminaria candles are one of the primary ways the Jamaica Cancer Society raises funds. Paper bags are hand-decorated with names either in memory of someone who fought cancer until the very end or in honour of loved ones diagnosed and fighting. A candle is placed inside each bag, lighting the pathway on Relay for Life night. Picture 10,000 stars and the glow of candles everywhere. It moves you.




Those lit candles around the Relay for Life field had a profound impact on my life the first time I saw them. I knew that every bag represented a person, a Jamaican who had cancer. Every year, the growing number of candles is a sobering reminder of just how much we all are affected by the disease and how much this one dreadful thing unites us all.

Today I see luminaria candles not only as the representation of those lives affected by the diseases, but also for the much-needed fire they give to the work of the Jamaica Cancer Society.

Luminaria bags cost only $500. Every cent from the sale of those bags goes towards the work of the Jamaica Cancer Society. It helps with free cancer screening across Jamaica, especially screenings for breast and prostate cancer.

The funds also help with surgery and treatment for those battling the disease who can't afford to foot the bills alone. The money pays for funeral expenses for those who have lost the fight and also towards cancer research, both here in Jamaica and abroad.

We need to know what causes cancer, how we can cure it, and how we can stop it. Some say it's meat. Others say it's sugar. Some say it's an acidic body. Others say it's all animal protein. Some say it's smoking. What is it?

Relay for Life will be staged this year on June 2 at the University of Technology. Reach out to the Jamaica Cancer Society and form a team, raise funds, walk against cancer or, at the very least, purchase your luminaria bag for just $500.

Every single cent makes a world of difference.

P.S. This is my last column about death for the year.


- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to and, or tweet @findpatria.