Sister Sister president: Get screened, know your status
Going pink for breast cancer awareness month, during which the time is heightened about the importance of detecting breast cancer early, Sister Sister (Breast) Cancer Support Group President Andrea Sweeting wants people to remember that the main thing isn’t to just wear pink during October, but to do what’s most important – screening.
“Have your mammogram – if you need to get a pap smear… whatever it is, you need screenings, you need to make sure. Early detection saves lives is the message we want to resonate,” said Sweeting. “Don’t just wear pink for wearing pink’s sake. Do something about it. Do what is really the point. Get yourself screened, and know your status,” said Sweeting, a 17-year survivor.
“Screening is most important,” she said.
October’s breast cancer awareness month is a chance to raise awareness about the importance of detecting breast cancer early.
The Sister Sister president laments the fact that the number of Bahamian women being diagnosed with breast cancer increases annually, which they can tell by the number of portacaths the organization doles out to persons newly diagnosed with cancer since it started doing so in 2005.
“Last year up to the end of December we gave out 188 ports; this year to date we have given out 155 ports with three months remaining on the year – and all new cases,” said Sweeting. “Each year it has climbed since we started giving out ports in 2005.”
One port sells for $500. Sister Sister gets its portacaths from Ports International which allows the organization to have the ports to give out whether they have the funds or not. The minute Sister Sister gets a donation, the organization pays Ports International. Sweeting said without Ports International, they wouldn’t be able to make it and do what they do.
In fact funds they recently received from Sunshine Insurance went to pay their debt at Ports International. With that said, Sweeting and the members of Sister Sister look forward to funds raised from an upcoming auction and dinner dance earmarked for the organization, from a group of women they have dubbed friends of Sister Sister.
Erica Pinder’s life has been touched four-fold by cancer – three of her aunts are breast cancer survivors and her father died of brain cancer; with this in mind she had a desire to give back. Three years ago, Pinder, Bella Mente Spa & Salon operational manager, hosted a day for the cancer support group during which 10 survivors received pampering treatments.
After a conversation with Sweeting and realizing what the organization does in terms of providing port-a-caths to persons diagnosed with cancer, and the group only having one major fundraiser, their prayer breakfast and their reliance on donations, Pinder asked Sweeting if she would be overstepping if she created a committee to raise funds for them. Sweeting didn’t oppose, and she and her organization welcomed it.
Pinder, the committee chair, met with Sweeting, Helen Rolle and Gina Rolle and they decided they would so something. Pinder included three of her friends – Sandrelee Edgar, the committee’s co-chair, Sharon Bethel-Gill and Daisy Albury. They initially had a $2 drive as their first fundraiser, which raised $1,100 for Sister Sister. They then set their sights on trying to raise at least $50,000 for the cause which they hope to do through an upcoming car auction and dinner dance under the theme “A Celebration of Life” on Saturday, October 27 at Balmoral. During the course of the evening, the winning bid and winner of the 2019 Toyota Rush sport utility vehicle will be announced.
Persons wanting to bid on the vehicle will have the next opportunity to do so at Old Fort Bay Plaza on Friday, October 12 between 2 p.m. and approximately 6 p.m. They are currently scouting a third location site to showcase the vehicle on Friday, October 26, the final day before the dinner dance and the winning bidder is announced. Bidding can also be done via email at email@example.com.
Whatever amount they raise over the cost of the vehicle price will be donated to Sister Sister.
To date, the bidding stands at $29,000.
Tickets for the dinner dance, a cocktail affair at Balmoral, are $125 per person. Pinder promises a fun evening.
“We wanted to move away from the balls, because I think corporate Bahamas is balled out, so we wanted to do something that’s fun and exciting. You eat all night, dance all night, and there’s not a long program. There will be a photo booth where persons can take photos, so it plans to be a real fun event that’s casual and laid-back.”
The committee would like to be able to present Sister Sister with a $50,000 check when it’s all said and done, which Pinder said means they have to realistically raise between $80,000 and $90,000.
“It’s an ambitious goal, but I’ve told the team if we don’t hit it, we will be close. We’re getting a lot of donations as well, for example the Prison Pop Band isn’t charging us anything to play for two hours, so we’re really trying to minimize our expenditures,” she said.
It also makes Pinder feel good to engage in the fundraising efforts, to know that they’re touching lives. She said she would feel even better once they deliver a check to Sister Sister.
“You don’t know until you’re in it how that one port… you may say it’s only $500, but that means so much to someone who really needs it,” said Pinder. She said they plan to engage in fundraising activities for Sister Sister annually and plan to start their initiative earlier next year.
“These women got together and wanted to know how best they could help the group and they came up with this idea to help out,” said Sweeting. She said she was thankful and grateful for the community, and their sponsors, because without them, the things that Sister Sister does, she said, could not happen.
Sister Sister was the brainchild of Dr. Locksley Munroe and Dr. Charles Diggiss. The breast cancer support group was launched in September 2000 as a non-profit charitable group for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Nurse Charlene McPhee, assisted by office staff members Francis Smith, Margaret Thurston and Cheryl Ingraham, underpinned the fledgling group until it took off.
In addition to assisting with the mental and spiritual needs of the membership, financial assistance is also offered to those in need through the purchase of the port-a-cath, the medical device used to administer chemotherapy, and which is seen as the first step in helping women fight breast cancer.
Monetary donations are also made to assist members with the cost of medication, medical exams and some day-to-day necessities. Each newly diagnosed patient receives a gift bag containing information on patient care, a squeeze ball for exercising, information on prosthesis and the contact information for members of the group.
In September 2004, the late Brenda Russell organized the group’s first prayer breakfast with British American joining in as the major partner and sponsor. The prayer breakfast remains the major fundraiser for the group and it is held annually in September.
On the morning prior to the dinner dance and auction, Nassau Guardian employee Anita Rolle, a seven-year cancer survivor, will host her first “Sweat Fete”, a breast cancer awareness fitness event, her celebration for a cause in conjunction with Perfect Fit exercise group on Saturday, October 27 (rescheduled from Saturday, September 15) at Goodman’s Bay between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sweat Fete will incorporate a soca aerobics workout as well as health screenings, food sampling and the disbursement of health information during the three hours. Donations are $5 with proceeds from the event donated to the Gennie Dean Caring & Sharing Cancer Support Group of which Rolle is a member. The group’s mission is to provide spiritual, financial, physical and emotional support to women who are cancer patients or cancer survivors.