Mon | Oct 14, 2019

On a mission to save lives

Published:Sunday | October 6, 2019 | 12:05 AMRocheda Bartley - Gleaner Writer
She is a co-founder of Heart and Soul Cancer Foundation of Jamaica Limited.
Two-time cancer survivor Sonia Morris says you need to muster up the courage to test yourself for breast cancer.
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Cancer. It’s a dreaded word that makes many of us quiver. Place the word breast before it, and some will tumble both emotionally and physically. Feared by many, this detrimental disease is one of the leading causes of death among women in Jamaica. But It does have to be like this. That’s the chant of Sonia Morris, cofounder of Heart and Soul Cancer Foundation of Jamaica Limited.

The Falmouth-based foundation exists to offset the cost of treatments for cancer patients at the Cornwall Regional Hospitals, with plans to expand to the St Ann’s Bay Regional Hospital.

Working with cancer patients at the Osceola Cancer Centre in Florida, taught Morris that the malady spares no one. In fact, she believes, “cancer does not discriminate”. But little did she know that it would knock on her door.

In 2002, in the middle of planning a fundraising activity to offset the cost of cancer treatments for patients at her work facility, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It’s the fear that I did not want to learn because I know what cancer is. When you hear the word cancer, you go into a different world, but I was able to pull myself together quickly. This is one of the reasons for my foundation,” Morris told Outlook recently.

Returning to Jamaica after doing a mastectomy and reconstructing the right breast, which followed the disease’s second show, Morris quickly took note of the high number of breast cancer related deaths. Lack of education and fund are the dominant causes she identified for the misfortune. So, she partnered with her husband, Errol Richards, whose mother died from the illness several years ago. That’s when Heart and Soul Cancer Foundation of Jamaica Limited came to life.

“We’re now collaborating with the Ministry of Health. We toured the Cornwall Regional Hospital and saw that there are a lot of needs there. But the doctors are doing a tremendous job with the resources that they have,” she said.

Richard added: “We have also committed ourselves to get three more chemo chairs and six infusion pumps for the Cornwall Regional Hospital. We want to put satellite chemotherapy centres in St Ann’s Bay, too, hopefully at the hospital, but if not we’ll look into building a centre in the parish.”

This move intended to reduce the pressure on the Cornwall Regional Hospital. It’s also to shorten the journey of St Mary residents who journey to the Montego Bay-based health facility for chemotherapy.

EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES

Morris and Richards are helping to spread the news that early detection saves lives. And especially through Heart and Soul Cancer Foundation of Jamaica Limited efforts, you’ll have a greater chance of surviving the illness.

“Your first step is to go and take the test, if you’ve discovered a lump. Although it’s hard, you have to think about yourself, life, family and all that you have to offer to muster up the courage. You want to enjoy life, so do what you must. The treatment nowadays is more advanced than before. So, you can save your life if you act up on it immediately,” Morris expressed.

Acknowledging that breast cancer is not gender neutral, the pair are encouraging males to learn more about the disease and seek treatment if they are diagnosed.

“Jamaicans need to reach out to their fellow country men to save lives,” Morris explained.

rocheda.bartley@gleanerjm.com