For two years the “sisters” have been offering tea service to patients receiving treatment at the oncology department at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH). Their premise is simple – sipping a perfectly brewed cup of tea can be the most comforting experience. Then there’s the fact that tea is touted to have healing properties. Through an act as simple as offering a cancer patient a cup of tea, members of Sister Sister Breast Cancer Support Group aim to show they care. But COVID-19, which has infiltrated every facet of society, has brought this simple, caring act to a halt.
While the global health pandemic has forced them to discontinue their tea service, and as they look to resume as soon as they are cleared to do so, the members of the organization said they remain available to people that need them.
Longtime President Andrea Sweeting said people have been reaching out and taking advantage of just that.
“They’re frightened. They have issues, and they want comfort, so we’re here for that,” said Sweeting. “People are still being diagnosed and still need support from Sister Sister.”
Sweeting, an almost 20-year survivor, said their main objective is to get the newly diagnosed to realize that their attitude will be the first thing that will help them through in their fight to survive.
“If they feel within themselves that they’re not going to make it, then they won’t make it [and] there’s nothing that I can say, or nothing any other member of this group can say that’s going to change that,” said Sweeting.
“So, we’re here to assist. Once they call, we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure we help them.”
In that vein, Sister Sister is continuing to dole out port-a-caths as needed from their office at Centreville Medical Centre located at Collins Avenue and Gibbs Corner.
“The sad thing is nothing has actually stopped, and we’re happy that we can still assist. People are still being diagnosed and still need support from Sister Sister,” said Sweeting.
“We’re still giving out the port-a-caths. Regardless of what is happening. We’re still open and still giving.”
Port-a-caths are devices used to deliver intravenous (IV) medications into the bloodstream and to draw blood for laboratory testing.
The office operates two days per week, Monday and Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with Nurse McPhee and her staff. On closed days, security officers Hubert Maura and David Armbrister are able to assist people in need between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“Our security men are there, and once they have the prescription, we are able to give them that port. We have persons who need to pick up their needles which they need needles for their treatment, and that’s still happening,” said Sweeting.
Sister Sister is also offering $25 Super Value vouchers to cancer fighters and survivors for grocery assistance.
Sweeting encourages anyone needing assistance to go to the office to receive a voucher.
“We’re here to help those persons. Not just the women, but men too.”
In difficult economic times, Sweeting said it has been able to continue doing what it does through donations from corporate Bahamas.
“We’re very grateful to the companies for their contribution,” she said.
According to Sweeting, the organization gave out 188 port-a-caths in 2018; 192 in 2019; and have doled out 55 of the devices to date for 2020.
Each port-a-cath costs $500; needles are $86 per dozen.
Sister Sister began as an organization catering to women. When it first started, their motto was “women helping women”; that has since morphed into “women helping others”. They offer their assistance to anyone in need – women, men and children.
As Sister Sister continues to do what it can as The Bahamas and the world battle the COVID-19 global public health pandemic, they do so as they gear up to celebrate their 20th anniversary in September.
Sweeting said the members of the organization feel truly blessed.
“The group has come a mighty long way from 15 women. As it stands right now, we have five of those founding persons still with us. One of the things I always say to the group is we have earned our respect and we must keep it,” she said.