Walk for the Cure
Every year without fail, my mother Gina Rolle and my aunts, Gayle Carey and Dr. Gill Gibson-Marche, show their love and support for my their mother, Louise Gibson, who is my grandmother, by participating in all walks hosted annually by the Cancer Society of The Bahamas. For each of those walks my mom and aunts would ask if I wanted to participate and show my support. I always found a way to weasel my way out. The walks were too early, I’m out of shape . . . and besides, I always went to the occasional prayer breakfast event–so what more did I need to do?But in October, the month observed as breast cancer awareness month, I received a fussing from a work mate, because I did not wear anything pink during those 31 days to show support for grandmother, a nine-year survivor. I’d always thought I was showing support in my own way by attending annual functions in honor of breast cancer, but the reprimand I received for the entire month of breast cancer observance really made me thing that I could do a little more.
Since the month of breast cancer observance, I’ve also thought more about just how important my grammy is to me and the age(79)she has reached in life despite challenges like her battle with breast cancer and a stroke. I felt that maybe . . . just maybe I could do more to show my support and love for her. So this time when my mom asked once again, if I was interested in doing a breast cancer walk with the family, I agreed for the first time, with no regrets. So this weekend, on Saturday, January 15, I will join my grandmother along with my mom and aunts in not just any breast cancer support walk but the first 5K Susan G. Komen Bahamas Race for the Cure. A walk that will be staged in conjunction with the second Marathon Bahamas race to bring together cancer survivors and supporters.
“Good grief, I will have to wake up early in the morning,(I am not the best morning person), but I am happy that I’ve made the decision to participate to support my grandmother, but also all those other persons and families that have had to battle cancer.”
I’m realizing that showing my support through walking–and you showing your support by walking also–means a lot to those persons battling with the disease and those that are surviving day to day. Participating in the Walk for Cure whether you are personally affected by cancer or not is not something you should just think about but absolutely do says cancer survivors.
For 40-year-old Shantell Cox-Hutchinson, a five-year, stage four cancer survivor, one of the most significant things that got her through her battle with cancer was the endless support she received from family and friends. She says it is support not only during the ordeal but afterward as well that makes all the difference.
“When most people think of cancer they think that after you’re diagnosed and you get the surgery that is the end. This is not true because a survivor will have to go through chemotherapy and radiation not to mention the emotional rollercoaster and possible relapses they go through. It is through this time, and years afterward that a survivor still needs support and encouragement. Statistics show that persons with cancer who have a strong support group, be it in the home, community and/or church have a better rate of success than those who are not encouraged. So really and truly, having people come out from all walks of life whether they are affected or not is important so that we all know that people still care. It is also good to have a Susan G. Komen walk here because it not only brings together supporters but also survivors who live and thrive off of the success and joys found in the success of others who have suffered as they have.”
For Vinalisa Ferguson, a cancer survivor of one year and nine months, your participation means a lot, because unlike a lot of other survivors, she did not have an easy time or the best support system during her fight with breast cancer. For her, seeing many people line up to show their support to her and her fellow survivors she says will make her feel special and alive.
“You never know what a survivor has been through to get where we are today. Some of us have a good time while others do not have it so good during our fight. So especially for those who did not have the support needed, something like this that everyone can be involved in is so important. Doing this is such a big thing because it makes you feel like you are still here.”
Ferguson says after witnessing a friend or loved one battle cancer many people get uncomfortable and don’t treat the person the same again. She says the person battling the disease may not succumb to cancer, and gets through the brutal chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but the sense of abandonment and aloneness can lay the final blow.
“You have to be strong in this but not all of us can make it. I’ve seen that personally so I encourage more women no matter how young you are to just be more aware of what is going on in your body and get tested. I encourage everyone, survivors and family members and friends especially to come out[to the walk]so that they can have a deeper understanding of what their loved one is going through.”
As for my grandmother, a nine-year cancer survivor, as I walk with her for the first time, the message she wants to impart is that cancer is not just a problem for women or the older woman, but that it is happening to people of all ages that everyone should be supportive.
“You may not know what to do when someone you know has cancer and you may not be able to be as supportive as you may want to be, but this is a good time to show your support by doing something so effortless yet significant. This is not only a chance for supporters to come out, but also for people who are ashamed that they have cancer to finally embrace it and see that they are not alone. It is a time to share stories and to simply have fun. We want everyone to know cancer is not an automatic life sentence and we are still alive after all we’ve been through. We want everyone to see that and really come out to support us. It would mean a lot.”
The scenic route will have walkers traversing Paradise Island, with a 6 a.m. start. It is the first walk hosted in The Bahamas by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Organization, an international group focused on raising money for cancer research through hosting cancer survivor and supporter walks in different cities in the United States.
Sunshine Insurance Ltd, in its role as the lead sponsor and organizer for Marathon Bahamas fostered the partnership between Marathon Bahamas and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the global leader of the breast cancer movement and the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists.
Sunshine Insurance Ltd. chairman Franklyn Wilson is excited to see history being made with the hosting of the walk.”This won’t be your regular walk for a cause. It will be scenic and beautiful whole bringing supporters and survivors together for a good cause. Unlike a marathon, this is not a race to be won by the fittest or the best. This is a race for the cure and we all really need to step up, be educated and make a difference.”
In a recent epidemiology/molecular epidemiology presentation at the ASCO Annual Meeting, in a study put forth it was found that in the United States, breast cancer is commonly thought of as a disease for older women, and in that in the white population over 55 percent of patients are diagnosed with breast cancer after the age of 60. The results of the study showed that in black women, a smaller percentage are over 60 years old at the time of diagnosis(45 percent), and that a significant proportion of black women with breast cancer are under 50 years of age(32 percent)at the time of diagnosis. The result of the study showed that this was in sharp contrast to the proportion of breast cancer diagnosed in white women under 50(23 percent). The epidemiologic difference suggested a difference in causation in the woman of Afro-American descent. In west Africa, the breast cancer incidence is low and ranges from 15.3 to 33.6 per 100,000. The average age of the breast cancer patient in Nigeria is 42.6. In a study of 70 African women with breast cancer diagnosed by the age of 40, four percent had protein truncating mutations and 23 percent amino acid substitutions on non-truncating variants of BRCA1 or BRCA2. The majority of Bahamians are of direct African descent. Anecdotal information suggests that there is a high incidence of breast cancer in young women in The Bahamas. The charts of the last 108 patients with breast cancer treated in The Bahamas looking for the age of the patient and the stage of the results were reviewed. The results concluded that 48 percent of the patients with breast cancer are under 50 years of age, 48 percent of patients, presented at stage three of the disease, and that the high rate of locally advanced breast cancer in very young women points to a genetic etiology.
To register for the 5K-Susan G. Komen Bahamas Race for the Cure race visit www.marathonbahamas.com.