I walked, for the first time, in the Barbados Cancer Society’s annual 5k Walk for the Cure – The national walk for breast cancer awareness two Sundays ago.
It was a truly wonderful experience joining with thousands of Barbadians and visitors all decked out in pink walking for the cause.
The Walk, now in its seventh year, continues to attract more persons of all age groups and backgrounds annually. Participating in the actual walk and not being just a spectator, as I’ve been in previous years, allows one to feel part of the drive to bring about awareness and to help those dealing with breast cancer.
The feeling of being among thousands with everyone focused on completing the walk or run is electric. I am also happy more of corporate Barbados is getting involved and putting in the necessary sponsorship to help the Barbados Cancer Society in its fight. As Barbados TODAY reported before the Walk: “Title sponsor of the Walk for the Cure campaign, CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank, which has so far raised US$240,000 regionally for this year’s campaign, has pledged to surpass last year’s figures of US$450,000…” And Grantley Adams Airport was part of the campaign lighting up in pink at night while contributing in other ways.
I also noticed several companies displaying and speaking about their products while several brands and other organizations gave water to participants. All these activities added to the event’s atmosphere.
One downside I observed – some Barbadians are still not environmentally conscious and while they took advantage of the free water, they threw the plastic bottle or cup without a second thought into the road or the bushes. I walked past dozens of discarded plastic water bottles and cups strewn along the route and wondered how on one hand we are walking for a cause of health but can’t recognize the impact on our environment and ultimately on our lives such wanton acts of littering can have. I expect that the Cancer Society would do a cleanup along the route but we all must play our part. Furthermore, the rain fell heavily during the walk so a lot of that plastic waste was probably washed into gutters and couldn’t be retrieved in a follow up cleaning. For future walks I recommend garbage bins be placed at strategic points and participants be encouraged to drop their litter in them.
Breast cancer is not a disease to be taken lightly, by women or men. It is reported that breast cancer cases continue to rise in Barbados. The Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw recently announced her battle with breast cancer and that has helped bring this subject even more into the open.
In August, Barbados TODAY reported some statistics related to breast cancer in Barbados from Coordinator of the Breast Screening Programme of the Breast Cancer Society Dr Shirley Jhagroo, a leading advocate in the fight against the number one killer of Barbadian women. The article stated: “With one person dying from various forms of cancer each week on the island, and breast cancer being one of the major causes, Dr Jhagroo said she wants to see more people coming forward for screening.
Pointing to statistics from the Radiotherapy Department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Jhagroo said in 2013 there were 469 cancer patients receiving treatment, of which 101 were for breast cancer. In 2014, there were 426 total cancer cases, 98 of which were breast cancer; in 2015 there were 430 cases with breast cancer accounting for 140.
Insisting that the data was in no way conclusive since many patients often opted to use other radiotherapy centres or go overseas for treatment, Jhagroo said data from June 2016 to June 2017 indicated that of the 115 cancer patients who sought treatment at the association’s radiotherapy centre, 28 of them were treated for breast cancer, ten of which were at stage two of the disease.
“The number of new cases diagnosed per year continues to [rise] with a noticeable increase in younger women below the age of 50, and this is still a cause for concern,” said Jhagroo, pointing out that with the one-stop clinic, there was an increase in early detection of the disease.
As awareness of the challenges Barbadians are facing related to health and wellness increases, I hope we all take more seriously what needs to be done to ensure a healthier lifestyle. It will mean making choices but these should not be difficult if we truly want a better quality of life for ourselves and those around us.
My faith reminds me that a sound mind is in a sound body. The two should go together – healthy bodies and healthy minds. We should always strive to adopt practices that cultivate healthier lifestyles that benefit us both physically and psychologically. Our minds are one of our greatest assets. Harnessing the power of our minds to do what is right for us means a better quality of life.
Our muscles, bones, lungs, liver, brain and secretions are made from the raw product we feed it. If we provide the factory with junk raw products, the factory will not produce tough bones, strong muscles, a good pump (heart) and clean pipes (vessels). The scriptures remind us “O mankind: Eat of what is lawful and good on earth.” It also reminds us to have clean thoughts and actions. And it advises us to look after ourselves as a creation of the Almighty.
Unfortunately, many of us, including myself, will delay in seeking early medical attention. But we should all take the following advice seriously and make the effort:
“Increase your knowledge of health and disease, of medications and side effects. This knowledge is not the monopoly of doctors. You can have it and use it in preventing the illness, recognizing it early when symptoms appear, seeking early medical attention, then monitoring the course of the disease, implementing the treatment (e.g. knowledge of diet for diabetics) and recognizing side effects of the medicine.”
In summary, our healthy body is a gift from God. We are the trustees. We should not misuse it, nor provide wrong raw products for the factory and we should keep superb maintenance of this delicate and sensitive machine, in order to enjoy it. It is the container of our soul.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: email@example.com)