Great things can happen when a society comes together.
Challenges can be tackled, people can receive support and solutions can be developed to chart a better future.
All this and more was evident this past Sunday as over 35,000 Barbadians took the annual Walk for A Cure in support of the fight against breast cancer.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley put it best when said the 5k run/walk was in fact “a people’s movement”, and one worth replicating.
Said the Prime Minister, who rubbed shoulders with Barbadians on the trek: “Last year and the year before, we watched as you determined that this matters to you. It was not governments, it was not institutions, it was the people. You, by your attendance here, you by the donning of your pink shirt, you by the donning of the pink ribbon, the badges [and] all the other things that, year after year, have been done to bring attention, [to breast cancer.]”
More than a mere fundraiser, the Walk for A Cure, now in its seventh year, is a celebration of those who have passed away from the disease and those who carry on the fight still.
It is a campaign of awareness to get women and yes, men, to take their health seriously. No woman should fear, or fail to perform, their monthly breast self-examination.
The walk was a source of encouragement for survivors to keep pressing on and for caregivers, especially family members who sacrifice their time to provide unpaid care to stricken loved ones.
Even moreso, it is a reminder that we have a long way to go to get a handle on this disease, the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Barbados.
In an update back in August, Coordinator of the Breast Screening Programme of the Breast Cancer Society Dr Shirley Jhagroo revealed that cases were on the rise and she urged more women to come forward for screening.
“Breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Barbados.
“The number of new cases diagnosed per year continues to increase with a noticeable increase in younger women below the age of 50, and this is still a cause for concern,” said Dr Jhagroo,
According to data from the Radiotherapy Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 2014, there were 426 total cancer cases, 98 of which were breast cancer while in 2015 there was a total of 430 cases with breast cancer accounting for 140.
Dr Jhagroo further noted that data from June 2016 to June 2017, showed that of the 115 cancer patients who sought treatment at the hospital’s radiotherapy centre, 28 of them were treated for breast cancer, ten of which were at stage two of the disease.
It would seem that almost everyone has been touched by breast cancer in one way or another; they’ve either had to deal with it or have had a loved one suffer from it.
Breast cancer is no respecter of age, gender or social standing. It has the ability to take lives and badly damage the lives of those left behind to mourn.
That is why the unrelenting efforts of Sr Shirley Jhagroo, Dr Dorothy Cooke-Johnson and hardworking staff, members and volunteers of the Barbados Cancer Society who have long championed the cause, saving scores of lives along the way, should not only be praised but boosted, with care and cash.
Our greatest hope is that their efforts continue to bear fruit. More so, we wish that the vibrant sea of pink which adorned the streets of Warrens will motivate us beyond Sunday’s enjoyable exercise to take real action to safeguard their lives. We must encourage each other to eat better, get active, stress less and rest more. Self-checks are life-saving – early detection saves lives. We need to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper.
And yet there’s still a bigger lesson from the exercise.
Just imagine what would happen if Barbadians could be equally mobilized to take a similar stance against gun violence, child abuse or even a cleaner Barbados.
We need more people’s movements.
But for now, we salute all who took the Walk for A Cure. We could do with all the breast friends we can get.