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It’s a sweat fete for a cause

For Anita Rolle, the breast cancer fight is personal – seven years ago she found a lump in her breast, went to the doctor and insisted on having a mammogram when medical professionals told her she didn’t need one. After the results returned positive, she was thankful for her insistence and persistence, because that meant her breast cancer was caught early, and today the mother of two has received clean bills of health ever since.

Rolle, 42, an incredibly private person, at the time also opted to keep her fight to herself – people outside of her circle did not know of her diagnosis or what she went through. As she’s grown and matured since her diagnosis and subsequent treatment, she has decided to step out of the shadows and become vocal about what she went through, and to do what she can in the breast cancer research fight. She will host her first Sweat Fete, a breast cancer awareness fitness event, her celebration for a cause in conjunction with Perfect Fit exercise group. It will incorporate a soca aerobics workout as well as health screenings, food sampling, and health information during the three-hour 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. event at Goodman’s Bay, West Bay Street. Donation is $5.

Proceeds from the Saturday, September 15 event will be donated to the Gennie Dean Caring & Sharing Cancer Support Group – a group that Rolle had joined.

The group’s mission is to provide spiritual, emotional, financial, physical and emotional support to women who are cancer patients or cancer survivors

Rolle said it was her interactions with the group and fellow cancer fighters and survivors impressed upon her to do her part to help others, hence Sweat Fete.

“Being a part of the group, and being in the presence of a lot of cancer survivors … there was something that was pressing on me to help others who don’t have insurance and the means to get the care and medical attention that they need,” said Rolle. “My birthday is September 19, and this year I decided to do something to give back to help other persons at having a chance of surviving and making it, especially as we had two people die in the last month … the financial needs are just not there.”

Rolle said the struggle and battle to fight cancer is daunting, because there’s the mental battle that has to be fought, and when it comes to treatments she said it’s a financial battle, especially if a person does not have insurance.

While she continues to survive and thrive, Rolle’s colleague, Sharon Miller who was also diagnosed with cancer, is about to begin radiation treatment and will host a souse-out during Sweat Fete to assist with her medical bills.

“It’s all about cancer survivors helping each other,” said Rolle.

To tie it all together full circle, Sweat Fete will be hosted by another cancer survivor in Rika (Rika C) Cargill, Hot 91.7 radio personality.

Free health screenings, food sampling and health information, will be the order of the day. Participants are encouraged to wear pink athletic attire.

Now that she’s more open about her breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival, Rolle said she feels Sweat Fete is a part of her purpose.

“I went through it to help others and I realize now I need to step out. I feel it’s a part of my purpose in being here and to be there for others and be more vocal about it. I also pride myself on being gifted in the area of planning events, so now I’m using my talents and resources to help others.”

Seven years cancer free, as she reflects, Rolle has always said she’s happy that she actually acted on testing and didn’t just push it aside.

She also got tested for the BRCA gene, found out that her cancer was not hereditary which also put her mind at ease because she didn’t have to be concerned for her children – her daughter Ashley, 21, and her son Ashton, 19 – being susceptible to cancer.

Despite that, she encourages her daughter to do her breast examinations, even though she’s not certain that she is diligent about her checks.

It was in late February 2011 that Rolle found the lump in her left breast. It was so miniscule that to be certain her mind wasn’t playing tricks on her, she asked her then teenage daughter to check to see if she felt anything. Two days after that, Rolle found herself in her doctor’s office. She’d heard too many breast cancer horror stories of people who succumbed to the disease, and wanted to ensure she was one of the survivors and able to tell a triumphant one.

“I made up my mind to do whatever I had to do, and whatever the outcome, so I didn’t drag my feet.”

She recalled being afraid, but said that wasn’t a big factor. Rolle said she was more consumed with doing what had to be done. Two weeks after diagnosis, she found herself in the United States getting a second opinion and having a lumpectomy on her left breast.

Rolle tackled the disease with chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

“My focus was to deal with it and get it behind me.”

She also said if she had been told she had to remove her breast to save her life that she would have done so. In the final analysis she did not have to undergo a mastectomy due to the early stage the disease was caught at.

Rolle was given a 99-percent rate on the cancer not returning, based on pathology reports since her surgery. She said doctors described the kind of cancer they found as “good cancer.”

“Because it wasn’t hereditary, it made me feel good as well.”

Today, Rolle is thankful she insisted on a mammogram at her initial doctor visit. That insistence she says probably saved her life. She also encourages people to pay attention to their body and changes in it.

Rolle also said the choice in choosing fellow colleague Rika C to host the event was totally intentional as Cargill knows the struggle.

“There’s nothing like when you’ve walked that walk. She’s ideal to host this event.”

Cargill, 38, last year lifted the shroud of mystery over what a double mastectomy looks like, as she proudly bared her scars in a television commercial for Fourth Terrace Diagnostic Centre’s breast cancer awareness commercial. For her, the scars were proof that she did what she had to do to win her war with cancer. She has not had reconstructive surgery.

The mother of three was also comfortable in her appearance as she used her life and image as a platform to reassure and encourage other women that they are beautiful without breasts.

As for having a double mastectomy, she said it was something she did not have to think about doing as her three children was all the impetus she needed to know that she had to fight to live. Cargill also said her breasts did not define her.

She found out she had breast cancer after giving birth to her third child. Like Rolle she was persistent with her doctors who she said told her she had a blocked milk duct. She was diagnosed at stage three; she also has a strong family history of the insidious disease. Her mother, grandmother, and two aunts all died as a result of cancer. Her father died from prostate cancer.

Unlike Rolle, Cargill tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene.

The results of a years-long breast cancer research released in 2011 showed The Bahamas with a high incidence of early onset breast cancer with six distinct BRCA 1 mutations found in patients from cancer families in the country.

The study was of 214 Bahamian women with invasive cancer, unselected for age or family history of cancer. They were screened for six mutations in the BRCA 1 gene that had previously been reported in cancer patients from The Bahamas.

The team – Talia Donenberg and Judith Huyler (Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center); John Lunn (Doctors Hospital); DuVaughn Curling and Theodore Turnquest (Princess Margaret Hospital); Elisa Krill-Jackson (Mount Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Center, Miami); and Robert Royer and Steven A. Narod (Women’s College Research Institute, Toronto, Canada) – found that a mutation was identified in 49 of the breast cancer patients (23 percent). They found the mutation frequency was particularly high in women diagnosed before age 50 (33 percent) in women with a first-degree relative with breast of ovarian cancer (41 percent) and in women with bilateral breast cancer (58 percent).

The study showed approximately 23 percent of unselected cases of breast cancer in the Bahamian population attributable to a founder mutation in the BRCA1 gene – the highest reported mutation prevalence for any country studied to that date. The result of the study as that genetic testing for the mutations was advised for all women diagnosed with breast cancer in The Bahamas.

After that study, Medical Oncologist Dr. Tracy Roberts-Halkitis said they had seen 567 new cases of breast cancer in Bahamian women between 2012 and 2016, an average of just over 100 new persons per year.

Age, being female, obesity, and prolonged periods of oral contraceptive usage increases risk factors that can’t be changed, and pre-disposes a person to breast cancer.

The gold standard in testing remains the mammogram.

The American Cancer Society recommends women between ages 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year; women 45 to 54 getting mammograms every year; women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms, and that screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 years or longer.

Shavaughn Moss

Lifestyles Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Shavaughn Mossjoined The Nassau Guardianas a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor.Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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