Sixty-year-old Andrea Brennen’s left arm looks like it belongs on an obese woman. But she’s not fat. She’s not even slightly overweight.
The mother of two has breast cancer and the fluid in her body has settled in her left arm, which is four times bigger than her right arm.
“I can’t even lift it,”the Bain Town resident toldThe Nassau Guardianrecently, pointing to her swollen flesh.
“It pains me everyday.”
In addition to her left arm, both of Brennen’s legs are swollen.
She has been battling cancer for more than two years. One of her breasts was removed last year.
Brennen’s sickness has left her partially handicapped. She said it’s very difficult for her to walk and often has to receive help just to get around.
But the 60-year-old is putting on a brave front for her 13-year-old daughter who she adopted nine years ago.
“I feel bad but I have to go along with it to save my life. I have two children,”Brennen said.
But Brennen said her life saving breast removal surgery isn’t the first traumatic experience in her life.
She lost her daughter years ago during childbirth.
That’s what prompted the then 51-year-old to adopt Philsity Brennen.
Brennen said it is becoming increasingly difficult to care for her youngest daughter.
What’s more, Philisity also has a handicap.
“She can’t speak. She was born that way. I could take care of her but I need help,”Brennen said adding that her family helps when they can.
Making her already dire situation even worse, Brennen said her landlord is getting ready to ask her to find another place to live. The landlord intends to make use of the apartment complex for another purpose.
“So now I need to find some place to stay,”she said.
Brennen said the National Insurance Board has been assisting her with her rent money and medication bills.
However, she said even with that assistance she is finding it difficult to make ends meet. Her sickness has made it impossible for her to work. She said she hasn’t held a job since she was diagnosed with the disease.
“It affects me bad. And when I take the chemotherapy it makes me feel worse. The side effect is the fluid in the arm. I feel a numbness in my hand and feet.”
“The doctors[gave]me the chemo but it’s the fluid in the hand… and I go for treatment and the fluid goes down it comes right back up,”she continued.
Brennen added that sometimes when she goes for treatment she is told that the required medication is not in stock. Other times, she said she is made to wait for hours before she is treated.
“If they don’t have the medicine they tell me I have to go home. But they’ll give me something–five pills to take in the day and five in the night.”
She said her legs have given out several times when she attempted to walk from the hospital to her Bain Town home.
“Cancer–it changed everything. I can’t clean up like how I want to and I can’t tend to my daughter like I want to,”Brennen said.
The frail woman added that she fights everyday to stay alive.
In The Bahamas annually, there are at least 100 new cases of breast cancer, according to health officials. Most of them are treated in the public health care system.
Breast cancer remains a great burden for Bahamian women, Oncologist Dr. John Lunn said in an earlier interview. In women with no special risk factors, there is a lifetime risk of one in 12 that they will develop the disease, Lunn pointed out.