Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Facing breast cancer can be a lonely experience - The pains came back!

Published:Friday | October 13, 2017 | 12:00 AMJody-Anne Lawrence
Carolind Graham, chairman of Jamaica Reach to Recovery.
A woman is being screened for breast cancer, using the mammogram process.
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It is never an easy feat dealing with breast cancer as the disease is no respecter of individuals be it race, age or class. We are all susceptible to it but we all handle it differently. One thing is true however, we all need the support.

Fact is, while many of us might get the support from our family members, facing breast cancer can still feel lonely if they never experienced it. If they never felt the near loss of life, the hours spent at the hospital, the treatment or the mere anxiety. The people battling this disease question whether their family members truly understand. This is where the support group comes in handy.

The breast cancer support arm of the Jamaica Cancer Society is the Jamaica Reach to Recover which was founded in 1977 by Dr Denise Thwaites. After being diagnosed with breast cancer she recognised the need for peer support among women who were going through this experience. She thus reached out to the American Cancer Society whom informed her of their support group called Reach to Recovery and the rest was history.

Current Chairperson of the body Carolind Graham had a similar experience. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2004 after a routine breast mammogram. Her gynaecologist was husband to the founder of Jamaica Reach to Recovery Dr R.E.D Thwaites. He, seeing her distress, recommended that she visit the group.

"Having no previous exposure to the topic of breast cancer, I attended this meeting with great trepidation and was reassured to see women who looked and sounded normal although they were breast cancer survivors," she told The Gleaner.

Graham moved from member to chairperson of the group. They were organised under the premise that a woman who has lived with breast cancer comes and gives support to women sharing similar experiences. Graham noted that the group is committed to working to improve the quality of life for women with breast cancer and their families, through a variety of services.

Mavis Desport-Baugh is currently a member of the group and she has got some support from Jamaica Reach to Recovery. She admits that she is uncertain as to what she would do without them. Her ordeal has been stressful. Through her tears she recalled that it started from August 2012.

It was not an easy one. She was unable to afford the private system and thus had to go through the public. Each stage more daunting than the next. Although there had been concerns from 2012 that she may have a malignant tumour, she did not get her results until January 2013. Surgery came two months later on March 15, 2013. Mavis Desport-Baugh started getting chemotherapy treatment in December 2013 and radiation almost two years later in August 2015.

In 2016 Mavis Desport-Baugh started to feel pain once again. She went to the orthopaedic clinic and was told that she needed to do a few scans. She did not have the money to do these tests. Desport-Baugh started to cry as she stated that poor people suffer in the end. But the Jamaica Reach to Recovery did help her she told The Gleaner.

"I do not know what I would have done without them. They helped to pay for the first set of scans," she said. Unfortunately the scans and MRI revealed her greatest fear that the cancer had now moved to her back.

The Jamaica Reach to Recovery also gave her the moral support that she needed. She is not without family but having women who were able to talk to her and to encourage her from a position of having similar experiences, was something that has helped her greatly.

"They embrace you. If you are down, they lift you up. We exchange numbers and they keep in touch to help and encourage you," she told The Gleaner.

Apart from their support group meetings and helping to pay for some tests that the people may not be able to afford Reach to Recovery share their expertise in breast cancer support, as well as their resources and connections. They also do hospital visits, home visits and presentations at schools, churches and service clubs to increase the awareness of breast cancer.

"We are a totally voluntary non-profit organisation. The costs associated with the treatment of breast cancer can be devastating to a family. In many cases

persons are not able to pay for the required tests and treatments, often resulting in death. We raise funds to assist women who would not otherwise be able to access lifesaving diagnostic tests and treatments," said Graham.

 

Membership

 

There are no requirements to joining the group. Cancer survivors can simply turn up to their meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m., at the Webster Memorial Church Hall at 53 Half-Way-Tree Road, Kingston. The meeting may go up to 7 p.m. There is a small membership due, however, this is voluntary and not forced. While the group is predominantly breast cancer survivors, however, other cancer survivors including men who have survived prostate cancer come to their meetings on occasions and they are welcomed with open arms.