Fri | Dec 14, 2018

Dear Breast Cancer Survivor

Published:Monday | October 30, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Tara Playfair-Scott

Dear Breast Cancer Survivor,

You are a part of a large and a community growing at the speed of light ... but first and foremost, you are someone's loved one, maybe you're a mother, a sister, a wife, and definitely someone's daughter. You're a fighter. This is the number-one cancer among women here in Jamaica and it turns out that we were that 1 in 21 among the women we know. You may have finished your treatments like me, or you may still me going through treatment, it could be a few months, a year, five, or even 10, but it has changed our lives.

No matter your age or the stage at which you were diagnosed, you are a fighter and you have the power to change or influence another woman who may not even know she is walking around with these cells quickly multiplying within her breast/s. A simple self exam, a mammogram, or ultrasound could be the difference to her joining us as survivors or not. Encourage her.

I'd be a liar if I said I didn't stop and wonder if I'll be here next year or the one after and you, too, may wonder what are the chances you will be going through this all over again. It's normal. We are human. The odds are in our favour but we can become complacent. Let's continue to get our quarterly or annual checks (depending on where you are in your journey). We can falter in how we and what we eat and put into our bodies, also what we put on our bodies (soaps, lotions, deodorants), take your medications (especially if you are on hormone therapy - five years may seem long, but better that than losing valuable time with those we love). Get your mammograms, blood checks, CT scans, and whatever else is recommended by your doctor. And though some of us fight it (guilty as charged), create a simple exercise regime that you stick to ... we don't want to give those cells any encouragement to return. A healthy lifestyle puts us in a better position.

I am a firm believer that a BIG part of survival is your mentality towards it, the chemo treatments, radiation, or therapies eventually come to and end, but how you approach living and your attitude towards life doesn't. Cancer has come and turned our lives upside down, things will never be the same and that's OK. Change comes in many forms and it's the blessings we seek and make from the change that matter most. So grab your shield of courage and advocate for more and better treatment options in our country, encourage women (and men) to get themselves checked, and speak about it because once people find it easier to talk about, the more we will increase the rate of early diagnosis which means a much better chance of survival and, most of all, appreciate every moment and person in your life - we can't control the circumstances life has dealt us, but how we respond to them is within our power.