Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Breast cancer survivors on path to recovery

Published:Monday | January 5, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Elite Sellars-Wright, executive member of Jamaica Reach to Recovery, pins Michael Leslie, finance manager at the Jamaica Cancer Society, with the international symbol for breast cancer a pink ribbon at the Breast Cancer Awareness Month church service, held at the Webster Memorial United Church last October. -FILE

Sharon Hamilton, Contributor

Jamaica Reach to Recovery (JRR) continues to have far-reaching effects on the lives of persons living with breast cancer in our society. The regular meetings offer an avenue for survivors to comfortably meet and share their stories, acquire necessary information and obtain the courage to be able to engage in the culture of volunteerism.

Breast cancer survivors and their families find it challenging, and at times difficult, to deal with the reality of the disease and the high cost of treatment. JRR offers resources and support that will help to improve the anxieties and depressions that exist with the diagnosis.

A total of 50 new breast cancer survivors joined the group during 2014. This is significant as there are many others who have not yet developed the confidence to share, are in the denial stage of being diagnosed with malignant tissue cells, are unaware of this support group, or simply not having the time to visit and join.

Counselling and mentoring support were also provided to some of these persons who were referred by friends, families and acquaintances outside of the JRR group.

Other ways in which JRR extends support to breast cancer survivors are through hospital visits and the provision of financial assistance to persons on a needs-based assessment. The increase in persons with breast cancer seeking assistance and with the higher cost of treatment, the money available for disbursement for 2014 was used up by mid-November.

Last year, JRR was also involved in making corporate presentations to small and large organisations, as well as to high schools in Kingston and St Andrew and to non-governmental organisations. The Build Ambassador concept has been developed from these sessions as persons are mentored to continue spreading the word throughout their organisations and beyond.

The major fundraising effort for JRR is the annual Denise Thwaites 5K Run/Walk. This is held the last Saturday in October of each year. The money raised from this event, along with other funds and donations received from corporate Jamaica and individuals, have been used to assist mainly with treatment for breast cancer survivors. This event, surprisingly enough, has not been able to attract the attention of the general population as it should have, judging by the marginal increase in support over the years. Another fundraising event for the year was a benefit play in June.

For 2015, JRR will be embarking on a more aggressive drive to raise additional money that will be used to assist breast cancer survivors. There is also plans to revamp the current annual Denise Thwaites 5K Run/Walk.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for JRR to effectively assist persons who face challenges to pay for treatment on a daily or monthly basis. It is hoped that through this medium and the many other interventions, more persons will join the list of contributors to the Jamaica Cancer Society and, by extension, the Jamaica Reach to Recovery in their fight to help prevent and support those who are affected by cancer.

While the Jamaica Cancer Society is the body that helps in promoting information for awareness about and prevention of all the different types of cancer in Jamaica, its affiliate, JRR, founded by Denise Thwaites, supports breast cancer survivors. JRR is made up of a voluntary group of breast cancer survivors, friends and well-wishers. The group meets at the Webster Memorial United Church on the second Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m.

Sharon Hamilton is a member of Jamaica Reach to Recovery. She was supported by Carolind Graham, chairman of Jamaica Reach to Recovery. Feedback email editorial@gleanerjm.com.