Breast Cancer Awareness Month was observed during the month of October, commencing with a church service at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Several presentations by health personnel at various business houses, health fairs and dress in pink Fridays were also features of the month of activities. The highlight however was a march around the city circuit beginning and ending at the Derek Walcott square.
“The walk today is to bring about an awareness, we need our people to be very aware, we need them to be aware of the life style that they should be living. Incorporate some exercise, good eating habits,” says Allison Gittens, Volunteer with the St. Lucia Cancer Society.
She said recent pronouncements in international news media linked processed meats with certain types of cancers thus the need for individuals to pay closer attention to what they consume. “We have to look at what we eat, what we are putting into our bodies. The intake of sugar, the intake of salt, overall we have to take care of ourselves…This is the message we are trying to put out there to the people. This illness is a burden our government, on the societies which try to help and we are asking persons to help us. Help keep a nation healthy.”
Giddens added that an increased number of young people are dying from cancer which has the effect of reducing the productive human capital of a country. She advocated that parents encourage their children to eat healthier by preparing more home cooked meals. “Do we know what our kids are buying when we just give them money for lunch or we just give them money to buy anything. Remember they are young kids and they are not as wise as we are until we educate them.”
The walk for cancer around the city circuit was a collaboration of the St. Lucia Cancer Society, Faces of Cancer, the Oncology Centre, the Bureau of Health Education, Pan American Life Insurance, the Ministry of Education, and Radio Caribbean International (RCI). “We are calling on all corporate citizens to be aware, if you can help your employees to be aware on a daily basis of what it is that they should be doing incorporate some exercise programme, try to help them with their eating habits, we all have to help each other.” Gittens stated.
Though the march did not realize the numbers the organizers were expecting Gittens highlighted the importance of the march was to create awareness of the pain and hurt that cancer causes. With both a close family member and friend diagnosed with cancer she said this cancer fight is very close to home. ” Because you cannot just talk about it you have to walk the talk and do the necessary action to ensure we have a healthy nation because without a healthy nation we have nothing.”
Radio personality at Radio Caribbean International, Mareen Alexander was the voice over the loud speakers on the truck encouraging passers by to get tested and know their cancer status. Alexander felt it her duty to give of her time and talent to heighten the awareness of the effects of cancer.
“Cancer has no preferences. Anybody can be a victim of cancer and I say victim because we all know the deadly disease that cancer is and if not detected in an early stage you know what cancer can do to someone. As a matter of fact most people see it as a death sentence. As long as you hear somebody has cancer you automatically write them up as being dead. But through knowledge we know that’s not the case and we want to encourage persons that through early detection is not an automatic death sentence and I think I have a responsibility to spread that word.” Alexander noted.
Alexander added that cancer is something she has had to deal with within her family. She said her grandmother died from cancer, her aunt is a cancer patient and her 15 year old nephew has been diagnosed with cancer.
Mareen sent out a plea to other media colleagues to utilized the influence they have via their programmes to increase the awareness and sensitization of cancer. “If we only understand the power that we bear within our hands we can make a difference. So it’s up to you to look within yourself understand what it is you hold within your hands and use it to your advantage to make positive changes.”